§ 157.038  ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURE.
   (A)   Preliminary investigation; notice; hearing. Whenever a petition is filed with the Town Planner by a public authority or by at least five residents of the town, charging that any dwelling or dwelling unit is unfit for human habitation, or whenever it appears to the Town Planner, upon inspection, that any dwelling or dwelling unit is unfit for human habitation, he shall, if his preliminary investigation discloses a basis for such charges, issue and cause to be served upon the owner of and parties in interest in such dwelling or dwelling unit a complaint stating the charges and containing a notice that a hearing will be held before the Town Planner at a place fixed in the notice, not less than ten nor more than 30 days after the serving of the complaint.  The owner or any party in interest shall have the right to file an answer to the complaint and to appear in person, or otherwise, and give testimony at the place and time fixed in the complaint.  Notice of the hearing shall also be given to at least one of the persons signing a petition relating to the dwelling.  Any person desiring to do so may attend the hearing and give evidence. Evidence relevant in courts of law or equity shall not be controlling in hearings before the Town Planner, and the normal rules of evidence will not apply to such hearings. 
   (B)   Procedure after hearing.  After the notice and hearing prescribed in division (A) of this section, the Town Planner shall state in writing his determination whether the dwelling or dwelling unit is unfit for human habitation, and if so, whether it is deteriorated or dilapidated. 
      (1)   Deteriorated dwelling, dwelling unit.  If the Town Planner determines that the dwelling or dwelling unit is deteriorated, he or she shall state in writing his or her findings of fact in support of that determination, and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner an order directing and requiring the owner to repair, alter or improve the dwelling or dwelling unit to comply with the minimum standards of fitness established by this chapter within a specified period of time, not to exceed 90 days.  The order may also direct and require the owner to vacate and close the dwelling or dwelling unit until the repairs, alterations and improvements have been made. 
      (2)   Dilapidated dwelling.  If the Town Planner determines that the dwelling is dilapidated, he or she shall state in writing his or her findings of fact to support that determination, and shall issue and cause to be served upon the owner an order directing and requiring the owner either to repair, alter or improve the dwelling or dwelling unit to comply with the minimum standards of fitness established by this chapter, or else to vacate and remove or demolish them within a specified period of time not to exceed 90 days. 
      (3)   Vacated and closed dwellings.  
         (a)    If the Town Council shall have adopted an ordinance as described in division (C) below, ordering a dwelling to be repaired, altered or improved pursuant to the findings of the Town Planner pursuant to (B)(1) or (2) or division (C), and if the owner has vacated and closed such dwelling and kept such dwelling vacated and closed for a period of one year pursuant to the ordinance or order, if the Town Council shall then find that the owner has abandoned the intent and purpose to repair, alter or improve the dwelling in order to render it fit for human habitation and that the continuation of the dwelling in its vacated and closed status would be inimical to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the city in that the dwelling would continue to deteriorate, would create a fire and safety hazard, would be a threat to children and vagrants, would attract persons intent on criminal activities, would cause and contribute to blight and the deterioration of property values in the area, and would render unavailable property and a dwelling which might otherwise have been made available to ease the persistent shortage of decent and affordable housing in this state, in such circumstances, the Town Council, may, after the expiration of such one-year period, enact an ordinance and serve such ordinance on the owner, setting forth the following:
            1.   If it is determined that the repair of the dwelling to render it fit for human habitation can be made at a cost not exceeding 50% of the then current value of the dwelling, the ordinance shall require that the owner either repair or demolish the dwelling within 90 days; or
            2.   If it is determined that the repair of the dwelling to render it fit for human habitation cannot be made at a cost not exceeding 50% of the then current value of the dwelling, the ordinance shall require the owner to demolish and remove the dwelling within 90 days.
         (b)   An ordinance adopted pursuant to this section shall be recorded in the office of the County Register of Deeds and shall be indexed in the name of the property owner in the grantor index.  If the owner fails to comply with this section, the Town Planner shall effectuate the purpose of the ordinance.  The cost to repair or demolish and remove the dwelling shall be a lien against the real property upon which such cost was incurred.  Such lien shall be filed, have priority and be collected in the same manner as the lien for special assessments established by G.S. § 160A-216 et seq.
         (c)   For the purpose of this section, the "current value" of a dwelling or structure shall be defined as the fair market value as determined by a certified appraiser or the current tax value on record with the county tax office, whichever is less.
   (C)   Failure to comply with order.   
      (1)   In personam remedy.  If the owner of any deteriorated dwelling or dwelling unit shall fail to comply with an order of the Town Planner to repair, alter or improve, or to vacate and close the dwelling or dwelling unit within the time specified, or if the owner of a dilapidated dwelling or dwelling unit shall fail to comply with an order of the Town Planner to repair, alter or improve, or to vacate and close and remove or demolish the dwelling or dwelling unit within the time specified, the Town Planner shall submit to the Town Council at its next regular meeting a resolution directing the Town Attorney to petition the Superior Court for an order directing that owner comply with the order of the Town Planner, as authorized by G.S. § 160D-1208(e). 
      (2)   In rem remedy.  After failure of an owner of a deteriorated or dilapidated dwelling or dwelling unit to comply with an order of the Town Planner within the time specified, if injunctive relief has not been sought or has not been granted as provided in division (C)(1), the Town Planner shall submit to the Town Council an ordinance ordering the Town Planner to cause that dwelling or dwelling unit to be repaired, altered, improved, vacated, closed, removed or demolished, as provided in the original order of the Town Planner, and pending removal or demolition, to place a placard on that dwelling as provided by G.S. § 160D-1203(4) and § 157.040 of this code.
   (D)   Appeals from orders of the Town Planner.
      (1)   An appeal from any decision or order of the Town Planner may be taken by any aggrieved person.  Any appeal from the Town Planner shall be taken within ten days from the rendering of the decision or service of the order and shall be taken by filing with the Town Planner and with the Board of Adjustment a notice of appeal which shall specify the grounds upon which the appeal is based.  Upon the filing of any notice of appeal, the Town Planner shall forthwith transmit to the Board of Adjustment all the papers constituting the record upon which the decision appealed from was made.  When an appeal is from a decision of the Town Planner refusing to allow the aggrieved person to do any act, his or her decision shall remain in force until modified or reversed.  When an appeal is from a decision of the Town Planner requiring the aggrieved person to do any act, the appeal shall have the effect of suspending the requirement until the hearing by the Board of Adjustment unless the Town Planner certifies to the Board of Adjustment, after the notice of appeal is filed with him or her, that by reason of the facts stated in the certificate, a copy of which shall be furnished the appellant, a suspension of this requirement would cause imminent peril to life or property, in which case the requirement shall not be suspended except for due cause shown upon not less than one day's written notice to the Town Planner, by the Board of Adjustment, or by a court of record upon petition made pursuant to G.S. § 160D- 1208(e) and division (E) of this section.
      (2)   The Board of Adjustment shall fix a reasonable time for the hearing of all appeals, shall give due notice to all the parties, and shall render its decision within a reasonable time.  Any party may appear in person or by agent or attorney.  The Board of Adjustment may reverse or affirm, wholly or partly, or may modify the decision or order appealed from, and may make such decision and order as in its opinion ought to be made in the matter, and to that end shall have all the powers of the Town Planner; but the concurring vote of four members of the Board of Adjustment shall be necessary to reverse or modify any decision or order of the Town Planner. The Board of Adjustment shall have power also in passing upon appeals, in any case where there are practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships in the way of carrying out the strict letter of this chapter, to adapt the application of this chapter to the necessities of the case to the end that the spirit of this chapter shall be observed, public safety and welfare secured, and substantial justice done.
      (3)    Every decision of the Board of Adjustment shall be subject to review by proceedings in the nature of certiorari instituted within 15 days of the decision of the Board as provided by G.S. § 160D-1208(c).
   (E)   Petition to superior court by owner.  Any person aggrieved by an order issued by the Town Planner or a decision rendered by the Board shall have the right, within 30 days after issuance of the order or rendering of the decision, to petition the superior court for a temporary injunction restraining the Town Planner pending a final disposition of the cause, as provided by G.S. §  160D-1208(d).
(Ord. passed 6-6-11; Am. Ord. passed 3-15-21)