Franklin County Courthouse

Unincorporated parts of Franklin County now have an ordinance to deal with property that becomes cluttered with trash or other debris.

Changes to state law approved by the Legislature this year allow Franklin County to abate nuisances, County Counselor Mark Piontek told commissioners. 

“This is the same authority that cities in Missouri have had for years,” he said. “It did not apply to counties.”

The county has received complaints about property nuisance issues in the past year, but there was little it could do to resolve the issues, Piontek said. The law requires the county to first notify property owners if they have a nuisance issue.

“ ‘Hey, you’ve got a problem, you’ve got to clean this up,’ ” Piontek said. “If they don’t do it, then ultimately, we have the option to go in and clean it up for them.”

The county would then charge the property owner for the clean up cost as a special tax bill, Piontek said. 

“Either way, one way or the other, we’ll get the problem corrected ­— cleaned up to the satisfaction of, hopefully, all the neighbors,” he said. 

Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker praised the action before commissioners voted 3-0 to approve it.

“That’s an unfortunate need but a good piece of legislation,” he said.

House Bill 271, approved in 2021 and signed June 15 by Gov. Mike Parson, gives counties with more than 101,000 but fewer than 115,000 residents the ability to pass laws preventing nuisance uses on property. Previously, only cities or villages, counties with a charter form of government and counties that include part of a city with more than 300,000 residents could pass nuisance ordinances.

The counties that include parts of Kansas City are the only ones with such a city in Missouri.

Franklin County is the only county in the state with a population between 101,000 and 115,000 that does not contain part of Kansas City, so it is the only one impacted by the change.

As authorized by state law, Franklin County’s new ordinance declares to be a public nuisance, “debris of any kind; weed cuttings; cut, fallen, or hazardous trees and shrubs; overgrown vegetation and noxious weeds, which are seven inches or more in height; rubbish and trash; lumber not piled or stacked 12 inches off the ground; rocks or bricks; tin; steel; parts of derelict cars or trucks; broken furniture; any flammable material, which may endanger public safety; or any material or condition which is unhealthy or unsafe.”

Once a property owner or occupant is notified in writing, he or she will have a “reasonable time” of at least 10 days to start removing the nuisance, according to the commission’s agenda.

House Bill 271, sponsored by Rep. John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon, included numerous other local government changes.