Stow -- City Council unanimously approved an ordinance June 27 that provides the city with procedures for dealing with illegal drug labs.
"It's something that's been needed. It gives law enforcement more assistance," Council President Jim Costello told the Stow Sentry after the meeting. "I just think it's a great piece of legislation."
Council also unanimously approved a second ordinance that seeks to "harmonize" city ordinances by including clandestine drug labs in a section of the city's codified ordinances that defines "dangerous buildings."
The effort comes in a year when the city has identified several alleged methamphetamine labs in homes, including on Lillian Road and Burton Drive in February and March respectively. A Mac Drive residence was identified as an alleged meth lab following an April 17 explosion.
"I'm glad it's passed," Police Chief Louis Dirker said after the meeting, adding that the city had actually been considering such legislation for about a year because of the general proliferation of methamphetamine labs in recent years.
The legislation was requested by the city's law department.
"I think they're great for the community," Deputy Law Director Amber Zibritosky told Council, in reference to the ordinances. "I think they're great for any community."
Zibritosky previously said that until the state adopts standards, municipalities and counties are on their own in developing their own procedures. She said that the city's proposed ordinance is based on similar ordinances in other communities, including Cuyahoga Falls.
The proposed procedures provide for inspections and cleanup of dangerous chemicals and, if the building is not deemed salvageable, demolition within three months of the city declaring the site a "public health nuisance."
Currently, city ordinances only allow demolition if the building is structurally unsound.
Property owners would ultimately be responsible for all costs. The ordinance would allow the city to proceed with such actions on its own, if necessary, with costs recovered through either the courts or by including them on the property tax bill. Even after cleanup, properties would still be included on a list on the city's website as having been contaminated, with a note that they have been remediated. Zibritosky has said this is to protect the city from liability because it can never be absolutely guaranteed that a property is completely clean.
"It gives us teeth," said Dirker. "Obviously it won't stop meth labs, but it gives us procedures."
"It gives the city the right to make sure residents in the community are safe," he added. "It protects everybody."
The legislation initially went through Council's public improvements committee. Councilor John Pribonic, who chairs the committee, told the Stow Sentry, "I think it's going to be one of the most important pieces of legislation we pass this year because it affects everyone."
"Everyone wants a safe community. It's going to protect the residents and it's going to protect future residents," said Pribonic.
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