Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Roanoke City Code Enforcement Workshop answers neighborhood questions

Code Enforcement 101

Code Enforcement 101

Assistant manager for Community Development Brian Townsend preached to the choir at Saturday morning’s Code Enforcement 101 workshop for city residents. The room was filled with just about every neighborhood organization in the city.

Building maintenance, zoning, and nuisance codes provide for a healthy, safe and clean environment for all citizens. “The goal is compliance and not punishment,” said Townsend. “It’s all about behavior modification.” He explained the concept of communal impact. One poorly maintained property effects all home property values.

There are 13 full-time code enforcement team members including Dan Webb the Codes Compliance Coordinator. The city is divided into code enforcement zones and assigned to code team members.

Webb said their work is increasing and agreed with Townsend that behavior modification is essential to reducing cost to the city. They’d rather see a decline in the need for code enforcement personal said Webb. Repeat violations for the same property must go through the long arduous process of discovery, inspection, citation, appeals, follow-up inspection, contract work and court.

The State gave cities some relief in 2003 requiring only one notification for weeds and trash abatement. The Dillon rule keeps cities from overreaching their power. This can be frustrating for cities like Roanoke with older structures. Roanoke County having newer structures has no building maintenance code.

The city also polices over 2500 rental units throughout the city. Contacting out of town landlords is time consuming.

Zoning Administrator Nancy Snodgrass explained that zoning code controls property use, structure height and setback. Snodgrass said, “Virginia is an extremely strong property rights state.” In some cases court appeals can reach all the way to the Supreme Court where the state favors the property owner.

Abandoned vehicles, garbage, debris that is a danger to the health and safety of residents was a popular topic with the neighborhood participants. What is one person’s trash can be another person’s artistic expression. Graffiti on owner property with consent is protected by the first amendment.

Codes Compliance Team Leader Barry Stacy took participants through a “is this a code violation or not” visual exercise. It wasn’t easy determining what is and is not a weed. A property owner who ignores weed and trash notifications can be charged as much as $280 when the city hires a contractor to correct the violation. If it goes unpaid the city can place a lien on the property.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Education, Local Events

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