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April 10, 2014

Graffiti ordinance closer to passing

Has a $25 fine for property owners who take no action

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council is drawing closer to passing some sort of ordinance to reduce graffiti in the city.

The council’s five-member Governmental Affairs Committee met in special session Thursday evening in City Hall to discuss an ordinance put forward last month by the Terre Haute Police Department that said it would work with property owners to remove graffiti, while threatening a potential fine for those who failed to take any action or allow the city to take action.

The goal of the ordinance is to get people working toward removing graffiti where it exists, said Councilman Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, who sponsored the measure and is a member of the committee.

Committee chairman Jim Chalos, D-at large, said he supports the intent of the ordinance but would like more specific language included concerning enforcement. Under the current ordinance, much would be left to the discretion of enforcement officers in working with property owners to remove graffiti, Loudermilk said. As with other city ordinances, such as rules against tall grass, city officials would have discretion in how the ordinance would be carried out, he said.

That may make sense for now, Chalos answered, but “we went through a lot of administrations [in the past] that made no sense.”

In its current form, the ordinance would impose a $25 fine on anyone who fails to remove graffiti within 30 days of receiving a notice from the city. However, Plasse, in response to a statement from a member of the public, said the city would perform the removal, and the fine is only for property owners who do not allow the city to take that action.

As it is currently written, the ordinance states the city will work “hand in hand” with property owners to remove graffiti, although it does not specifically state the city will remove the graffiti. The latest version of a proposed notification letter to property owners does make that statement, Plasse said.

“If it’s in [the letter] that the city will clean it up, it should be in [the ordinance],” Chalos said.

The committee, at Loudermilk’s suggestion, voted to “table” consideration of the ordinance until a future time. Because it faces significant amendments, it could not come to a vote by Tuesday’s regular meeting, Chou-il Lee, city attorney, told the council.

The latest version of the ordinance is available on the City Council section of the City of Terre Haute website at

n The council also heard a request for two vacating alleys – a move that effectively transfers ownership of a public alley to adjacent property owners.

One alley is between Hulman and Idaho streets east of the Dollar General store at 25th and Hulman streets. In that case, an attorney representing the owner of the Dollar General property objected to the proposed vacation, which was requested to provide additional parking for a nearby apartment house.

In the second case, property owners requested that an alley running through the parking lot of the Pizza Hut at U.S. 41 and Voorhees Street be vacated. The owners of the Pizza Hut are hoping to build an entirely new building at the site and discovered an east-west alley runs through the parking lot. They are asking it to be vacated. The Terre Haute Department of Engineering raised an objection to the vacation stating it would effectively created a dead-end alley. A representative of the property owners said motorists would not be prevented from driving through the parking lot to Third or Voorhees streets upon exiting the alley.

These and other matters are expected to come to a vote at the next regular meeting of the Council set for 6 p.m. on Tuesday in City Hall.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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