News

Does the City have a graffiti plight?

How much of a nuisance is graffiti to the Creswell community?
That’s what City Hall wants to know, after a spree of graffiti showed up and stuck around for some time in the City.
City Administrator Michelle Amberg said she was surprised when she noticed the graffiti wasn’t immediately removed some months ago. That prompted Amberg to check the City’s code, and she discovered there was actually no requirement to remove graffiti in the code.
City Economic Developer Michael DeHart researched graffiti codes in Creswell and surrounding communities, and brought his findings and suggestions to the City Council work session this month.
Language in Creswell’s Municipal Code referring to graffiti only pertains to the person who applies the graffiti or possesses graffiti implements, prescribing a fine to the offender, DeHart said.
Unfortunately, the Municipal Code does not contain language to address the enduring nuisance caused by the continued existence of graffiti. So, if property is graffitied, the property owners currently have no obligation to clean it up.
In looking at other examples of how other cities handle graffiti, DeHart noted that the City of Cottage Grove defines graffiti as ”a nuisance affecting public welfare.” The City of Creswell Municipal Code does not contain a specific section referring to public welfare, but does contain a section regarding ”nuisances affecting public peace.” The only two nuisances named in this section are ”radio and television interference,” and ”junk.”
He suggested that the council might want to consider creating specific language to address the nuisance of continued existence of graffiti, so that the City can act on complaints by requiring property owners to remove graffiti within 10 days after a notice from the City.
Concerned community member Lyn Cole said she filed a report with the City about racist graffiti on the back of the old Ray’s Food Place about two months ago, and it was just recently covered up. She wanted to publicly thank whoever had the gumption to clean it up, but noticed that there is still gang graffiti on other portions of the building.
”While I agree that the (property) owner should be responsible for cleaning up (the graffiti), in this particular case, I don’t know who owns the Ray’s store, and the person who owns the property is nonresponsive,” Cole said. She suggested that Public Works might be responsible for cleaning up such graffiti, instead of the property owner in these instances.
City Administrator Michelle Amberg noted that while the City is responsible for city-owned property, such as the city parks or street signs, extending such removal services to privately owned property is too big of a process and could pose an increased liability risk to the City.
If citizens who have been hit by graffiti own their property, they can order the appropriate stain, paint or other materials needed to match that of their current fence, wall, or whatever the property may be, Amberg said.
She said sometimes property is abated and the City will then clean up the vegetation or excessive trash and bill the property owner. If the property owner does not pay that bill within a reasonable amount of time the City can put a lien against their property, but that’s a relatively rare occurrence.
Community member Monica Knight suggested that the landowner be given more than 10 days to clean up the graffiti on their property for non-painted surfaces. She said that there has been graffiti on brick walls, trees, mailboxes and automobiles in Creswell, and those surfaces require more than just a can of paint.
”Sometimes (the City’s) got to give the landowner more time” than 10 days to clean up the graffiti, Knight said. ”I hate graffiti, too; I just think some landowners like to keep their property clean but if they get graffitied, it’s not their fault.”
She noted she has been personally putting a lot of money into staining her fence after getting hit with graffiti.
Councilor Amy Knudsen noted that the responsibility of property ownership comes with benefits and drawbacks, one drawback is having to fork out money after someone else defaces your private property. She said it’s unfortunate, but comes with the territory.
Amberg said that in her experiences as a city administrator in other cities, 10 days is a more-than-generous timeframe for owners to clean up the graffiti.
”It is not unusual for cities to require private property owners to remove graffiti fairly quickly,” Amberg said. ”However, it really is a matter of what the community prefers.”
Amberg directed DeHart to continue to look into other cities’ ordinances and come back with a report at the April council work session.
But in the meantime, the City wants community input on what their tolerance is in terms of a timeframe for graffiti removal. How would you like to see graffiti removal enforced? Is 10 days long enough, or not? What level of strictness for enforcement would you like to see? Is graffiti in Creswell a big problem for its citizens?
The City encourages its citizens to voice their concerns to City Hall, so that they can better evaluate how to proceed.
Residents are welcome to call City Hall at 541-895-2531, stop in at 13 S. 1st St. to discuss concerns, or email Mayor Dave Stram at [email protected] with your thoughts.
The next city council meeting will be held on Monday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in City Hall. The next work session is slated for Monday, April 23 at 6 p.m. in the same location. Both meetings are open to the public.

Correction/ Clarification
In a story in the April 5 edition of The Creswell Chronicle regarding graffiti in town, Monica Knight stated that she has spent a lot money on staining her fence, but did not state her fence was graffitied, as reported. Knight also did not say brick walls were graffitied around town, as the mentioning of brick walls came from when Knight suggested that​ landowners need more time for to clean such surfaces​ ​when ​graffitied. The Chronicle strives for accuracy and regrets these errors.
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Something need correcting? Let us know and we’ll make it right. Email Erin at [email protected] or call the office at 541-895-2197.