If it involves real estate and transactions involving property, what do we always hear from those in the know? It's all about location, location, location.

    If it involves real estate and transactions involving property, what do we always hear from those in the know? It's all about location, location, location.

    Well, on a mostly unrelated note, when it comes to property in Crookston, specifically, City of Crookston officials dealing with junky, cluttered, dilapidated and run-down property, for years it's been all about enforcement, enforcement, enforcement. Or, to be more concise, a lack of consistent enforcement, in some eyes.

    That's about to change, it would seem.

    The City is poised to adopt a massively overhauled and much more comprehensive and up-to-date "property maintenance code." Building Official Matt Johnson has been leading the effort for quite some time, and on July 19 Crookston residents will have a chance to offer their input and feedback at a public session at city hall.

    What's most striking about the new code is its attempt to make follow-through and enforcement a consistent, deliberate part of the process.

    For years, it's inconsistency throughout the process that's been the problem, some say. Someone makes a complaint about the condition of someone else's property. Maybe it's to a city council member. Maybe that complaint gets to Johnson, or maybe Fire Chief Tim Froeber and his staff, who deal with a lot of inspections and property-related issues. Maybe Police Chief Paul Biermaier hears about it. A process commences.

    And then what happens? Often, that's been the $64,000 question. For years, At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye has openly wondered what the point is, if enforcement and follow-up are going to be lacking.

    That's where the new property maintenance code comes in. Perhaps most importantly, the entire city council is the decision-making authority on complaints that cross their desk. There's also a consistent timeline of events, a process, and a schedule of ramped up financial penalties. There's an appeal window for property owners. And if things can't be resolved, there's a court process. It's all in the new code, in detail.

    It won't be perfect. Far from it, in fact. Lots of houses could sure use some fresh paint, for instance. But, Johnson says, pure aesthetics cannot be the lone trigger of a complaint against a property owner. But if that house in dire need of paint is bringing down the neighbors' property values, maybe that goes beyond simple aesthetics, Johnson adds. That gray area could lead to some sticky situations.

    Then there's the fact that many property owners who are the subject of complaints might not have a lot of cash lying around to make the necessary fixes to their property. Then what? You don't want to be throwing people out on the street. That's where the real wildcard in this new code comes into play. Johnson and City Administrator Shannon Stassen have said they're talking with various "community resources" that might be able to step up and help property owners with the costs of getting their properties up to code. If that sort of help comes to fruition, that's a big deal.

    At this point in the process, one might conclude, "So far, so good." At least on paper. Right now, this revamped code looks good on paper. Next up, we'll have to see it in action.