Las Vegans battling olfactory offenses in their neighborhoods may soon have an ally in the Nasal Ranger.
The $2,000 device could help enforce a proposed ordinance that would set standards aimed at curtailing nuisance smells and identifying odors from potentially harmful substances. It is slated to be discussed by the City Council on March 15.
“It comes up with a scientific reading, so if we had to go to court, we’re not standing there and going, ‘Yeah, it’s stinky,’ ” said Vicki Ozuna, the city’s code enforcement supervisor.
The city does not have an ordinance that deals specifically with odor, but the idea came about because of a cat-hoarding house a few years ago. The possibility of overwhelming odors from places where recreational marijuana is being grown is also part of the discussion.
Code enforcement officials would take readings by holding it up to their nose and inhaling. The Nasal Ranger shows how diluted the air is. If it crosses a threshold of seven parts oxygen to one part odorous air, it would be a violation under the proposed ordinance.
The lowest reading would be a 2:1 ratio, while the device can read as high as a 60:1 ratio. The Nasal Ranger was brought before the City Council on Monday.
Mayor Carolyn Goodman asked about the potential for the device exposing the city to a lawsuit.
“Is that air being pulled into their lungs? Well, that’s not very good,” Goodman said at a Monday committee meeting.
Code enforcement staffers would be trained to leave if they believe a smell could be emanating from a hazardous material, Ozuna said.
THE CAT HOUSE
The cat-hoarding house that spurred the ordinance had a stench that was distinctive from across the street, Ozuna said.
The house was sanitized, but the odor lingered. Eventually, the house was taken down to the framing on the inside. The woman who lived there was cooperative, but that’s not always the case. And without an odor clause, the city could not have had all the tools it needed to deal with the problem, Ozuna said.
Shortly after that episode, medical marijuana was legalized. That has not stirred complaints, but city officials wonder whether recreational marijuana odors will change that, particularly from cultivation facilities or backyard plantings.
Complaints about rancid reeks make up 1 to 2 percent of code enforcement complaints each year. Odor complaints have risen in areas where squatters are prevalent, Ozuna said.
Last week, Ozuna demonstrated the Nasal Ranger with candle wax that had the scent of autumn leaves, likely a much more pleasant smell than what the device user would normally whiff. The city gets odor complaints about everything from rotten food and grease traps to polluted or stagnant water to paint.
Odor investigations will be driven by complaints, Ozuna said.
If an owner is willing to work with the city and has a plan for fixing the foulness, he or she will be able to do so. But property owners who don’t come into compliance could be fined up to $1,000.
The proposed regulations also have the benefit of using measurements to disprove an odor in cases of neighbors just not getting along.
“The last thing we want is to be a tool for the neighbors to torture each other,” Ozuna said.
The odor ordinance wouldn’t extend to cigarette or marijuana smoking in an apartment building, for example. If someone is growing marijuana and draws complaints, though, the city would look into it, Ozuna said.
“In the pas,t it was subjective. This makes it objective and scientific,” said Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, one of the sponsors of the ordinance.