HUNTINGTON — Huntington City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Monday in hopes of aiding the police department with trespassing issues in the city.
The new ordinance would give the city the authority to post properties on the unsafe or vacant buildings list as “no trespassing” and would also up the penalty for individuals who violate it.
“This is an ordinance that accomplishes two things: first is to allow the city to actually post privately owned property ‘no trespassing’ if the property owner hasn’t posted it; this means that the city can then charge squatters with trespassing,” City Attorney Scott Damron said. “The second part creates an additional, enhanced penalty for trespassing in a structure.”
The ordinance raises the maximum fine for structure trespassing from $100 to $500 and also allows the potential for up to 30 days of jail time.
“This mainly allows the police officer to actually arrest a squatter or remove them from the building,” Damron said.
In addition, the municipality can charge the property owner the cost of posting the signage should they not comply.
Currently, Damron said the vacant buildings list in Huntington is in the hundreds, and the new ordinance would apply to any of those existing or newly registered structures. The owner will have a timeframe to post the building “no tresspassing” after being notified before the city is stepping in.
Council also enacted several ordinances at Monday’s meeting that create two separate industrial districts in the city.
City Planner Shae Strait said some areas in Huntington currently classified as general industrial districts will move to light industrial and commercial districts, reducing regulations for businesses and for residential uses.
The ordinances also create a heavy industrial district, allowing businesses within those zones to operate more viably, Strait said.
At council’s next meeting Monday, Sept. 28, members will take up a resolution authorizing a budget revision to provide aid to the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Council’s Finance Committee approved the proposal, which would designate $100,000 to the CVB to make up for losses sustained by COVID-19, at Monday’s meeting. It will go before the full council before action is taken.