Subscribe for 17¢ / day

An ordinance designed to limit how long abandoned houses can remain boarded up will be voted on by the Billings City Council on Monday night.

The council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.

Under current law, property owners can board up an abandoned house indefinitely, as long as they comply with laws regarding weeds, junk vehicles and open storage.

The proposed ordinance, which will also be the subject of a public hearing before the council vote, would require property owners to board up windows and doors on abandoned houses for no more than 180 days.

After that, they would have to replace the boards with tight-fitting doors and windows. To avoid penalizing homeowners who might temporarily board over a door or a window, the ordinance specifies that the house has to be unoccupied and that at least one utility — gas, electricity or water — has to have been shut off for 180 days or more.

If the council passes the ordinance Monday and on second reading at its Sept. 24 meeting, it would take effect 30 days later, on Oct. 30.

The council will also take up, once again, a recommendation to use eminent domain to purchase 2.56 acres of land near the city’s Chapple Reservoir on the west side of Clearview Drive.

The city’s Public Utilities Division wants the land to build a badly needed reservoir to service the West End. The city had the land appraised and made a formal offer to landowner Sheldon Eaton, but he did not accept it.

The council considered the same recommendation at its Aug. 13 meeting but decided to postpone action until this meeting to give Eaton and the city more time to reach an agreement.

That apparently did not happen, so the council will consider using eminent domain to acquire the acreage.

Another piece of land on the agenda is owned by the city and is to be sold to the highest bidder. In July, the council adopted a resolution of intent to sell city-owned property at 1048 Grand Ave., the site of a former Dairy Queen building.

The building has been demolished and the city advertised for sealed bids to buy the land. The deadline for bidding was Sept. 6, so the council will be asked to accept the high bid Monday.

The City Council will also hold a public hearing and vote on setting assessments for $390,000 worth of sidewalk, curb and gutter projects done throughout the city in the past year. Some of the assessments are relatively inexpensive — around $100 — but some of them are hefty, as much as $11,000.

Also on the agenda are two items having to do with backyard hens. The two ordinances — one to allow the keeping of hens and the other setting up regulations regarding that activity — were approved on first reading at the council’s last meeting.

If approved for the second and final time Monday, the ordinances will take effect in 30 days.



I cover the city of Billings.