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Crews board up business taken over by squatters

Posted at 11:41 PM, Jan 20, 2016
A vacant store that had recently been turned into a “homeless condo” according to neighbors is now boarded up.
 
Clark County sent crews out to secure the property just days after Action News contacted them about the problem that nearby businesses say has been going on for a month.
 
"The building owner can finally come in and take responsibility for what is going on in there, but it is safe and clean and we don't have to deal with what we have been dealing with over the past month," Troy Heard with the Onyx Theatre said.
 
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani was at the store near Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway as crews boarded up the entrance.
 
The commissioner said she has been working to get something done at the site for two years.
 
"We could not get a hold of an owner. I had opened my own code complaints," Giunchigliani said.
 
It isn’t just a problem at this one commercial center.
 
Giunchigliani says she sees the problem all over the valley, including in many vacant homes.
 
She thinks the state and county need to be more aggressive in dealing with the problem.
 
 “If you think about it in housing, you've got so many out of state property owners or banks that don't give a hoot.  So they are not living in the neighborhood," Giunchigliani said.
 
The commissioner says she is directing the county employees to do more when it comes to addressing the problem quickly, but says there are several limitations.
 
"We are limited because our code officers are not case officers so they can only do citations.  You do by state law have different times and notices that have to go," Giunchigliani said.
 
Giunchigliani acknowledges a new law passed during the last legislative session is helping police get squatters out more quickly, but she still hopes more can be done in the future.
 
"We need more tools.  Legislatively we need more tools.  We need to use what we have the capability of in a much more timely manner," Giunchigliani said.
 
To that end, the commissioner said she is calling on county employees to be stricter with property owners when it comes to permits.
 
"We tend to be a little bit too lenient in my opinion, I don't want any types of extensions on this type of garbage in my district," Giunchigliani said.
 
The commissioner says the other solution may be getting businesses into the vacant stores, so they aren’t there to be abused.
 
"They know they are empty.  They can break in quietly through the back walls, and until we know them, we don't even know they are there," Giunchigliani said.
 
When it comes to getting the homeless people off the streets and into housing, the commissioner says the solution isn’t that easy.
 
"Problem is you have some people that want to go into housing," Giunchigliani said, “but when they refuse we can't make them go in.”
 
Those that work at businesses near the property that was cleaned up say they are happy their customers don’t have to worry when they visit.
 
"I hope they find shelter, but now I feel safe, now I hope my patrons feel safe," Heard said.
 
The county says the owner of the business will be sent a notice of the work done to the property and will be responsible for the cost of the repairs.
 
The property has been deemed uninhabitable by the county as well.