Cheney Free Press -

By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

Determining property liabilities

Cheney establishes separate maintenance code chapter


Last updated 6/7/2018 at 8:21am

If approved by the City Council at an upcoming meeting, the city of Cheney will add a chapter to its municipal code that deals with property maintenance.

The city’s Planning Commission approved the repeal of text dealing with natural gas at its regular May meeting and the insertion into the same chapter — chapter 17 — text defining a “Property Maintenance Code.” Building official Shane Nilles explained that the old gas code stemmed from 1964, and had been rendered obsolete long ago by changes in the law.

“It really doesn’t serve any purpose,” Nilles told the commission. “Currently, the state tells us we must adopt the International Gas Code, and that covers it.”

Avista also has its own codes, Nilles added. Removing the gas text left a hole in the code which building, planning and public works officials felt was a good place to insert property maintenance codes.

Nilles said the city chose to use the International Property Maintenance Code because it is “good, clean and covers it well.” They did make several amendments to address issues peculiar to Cheney, however.

The new code defines what constitutes buffer areas between city and private property and who has responsibilities for its maintenance. For instance, under “Public Ways,” the code clarifies that maintenance of streets falls to the city, with the exception of any public ways perceived as a portion of the street, but not falling within the defined confines of the street limits.

Those areas shall be maintained by the owner of the adjacent property, along with sidewalks, curbs and alleys. Amendments to the international code in the chapter address controlling of such items as weeds along with machinery and equipment, household items and motor vehicle components that are stored on exterior property and premises.

The new chapter also defines the authority of the code enforcement officer, and sets up an enforcement method for the city to control what happens on property undergoing foreclosure. Besides defining what is considered property being foreclosed, the chapter also sets up a foreclosure property registration program that requires the “lender or other responsible party (ies)” undergoing the foreclosure process to register those properties with the city and pay an annual non-refundable fee.

Those properties will need to follow city-defined minimum maintenance requirements until they are removed from the registration. Violations of these will be considered class 1 civil infractions and be subject to appropriate penalties.

Nilles listed several reasons why the city decided to set up a specific property maintenance code chapter. Those reasons include impacts from the high volume of construction activity taking place in the city and the recent restructuring of the building department.

Recent updates to the state’s Growth Management Act requirements also needed to be mixed into Cheney’s codes, with existing requirements clarified and simplified.

John McCallum can be reached at


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