Aurora can now jail residents who keep junk in their yards

Photo by Jakub Nawrot

Aurora is increasing penalties for storing rubbish and junk vehicles on residential property.

Instead of facing minor misdemeanor charges, folks will now face fourth-degree misdemeanor charges for a first offense, third-degree misdemeanor charges for second offenses within a year of the first conviction, and second-degree misdemeanors for each subsequent offense within a year of the first conviction, the ordinance states.

Aurora enacted its first property maintenance code in 2020 in reaction to increasing complaints about trash, cars, and other junk on some residents’ properties, Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said, noting that such detritus damages the character and value of the neighborhood in general.

“We have worked with that ordinance for two years, and realized that the ‘minor misdemeanor’ penalty gives the city little clout to actually enforce the ordinance,” she said. “With the increase of the first violation to a fourth-degree misdemeanor, the court can hold potential jail time over the resident to motivate the resident to clean up the property.”

City officials always work with residents prior to issuing citations, she added.

If a property owner does not remove the offending material by the date specified in the city’s written notice, each day thereafter will be treated as a separate offense, the ordinance states.

Maximum monetary and potential incarceration penalties for each offense are:

Fourth-degree misdemeanor: 30 days and $250

Third-degree misdemeanor: 60 days and $500

Second-degree misdemeanor: 90 days and $750

As in the city’s original ordinance, if Aurora officials do have to arrange for storage charges and charges for removing or towing the “junk, junk vehicles and/or rubbish,” a lien will be instituted so the city can eventually recoup its costs.

Council passed the stricter ordinance Aug. 15, and it became effective Aug. 17.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.