County Executive Isiah Leggett today released the report of his Code Enforcement Work Group, a report which recommends sweeping changes designed to aggressively tackle a broad range of issues that impact the quality of life and safety in County neighborhoods.
The report, which with its attached new legislation totals 74 pages, is the result of a year-long, top-to-bottom evaluation of code enforcement that involved Police, Fire & Rescue, Permitting Services, Housing & Community Affairs, Transportation, Environmental Protection, the County Attorney and the County Council.
“When I took office, I said we had to keep what’s working and fix what isn’t,” said Leggett. “I have heard concerns from many neighborhoods about issues ranging from parking of commercial and residential vehicles to home-based businesses to building permit abuses. Residents are concerned that portions of the County Code are outdated, that enforcement is uneven, that too much time passes between the issuance of a citation and correction of a code violation, and that there is not enough coordination between various County departments.
“These recommendations will help to protect and preserve the quality of life in our neighborhoods. Where practices need to be changed in code enforcement, I will implement those immediately. Where changes in the law are required, I am forwarding legislation to the County Council for action.”
Among the County Executive’s recommendations are:
Increase fines for repeat Housing Code violators from $500 a day to $750 a day.
• Expand the use of eReferral, an automated system which is used by code enforcement personnel to report potential code violations, to other agencies with enforcement roles.
• Develop and implement on-line complaint forms on the Housing & Community Affairs, Permitting Services, and Fire & Rescue web sites – already completed.
• Establish a process for imposing increased fines for property owners who make improvements, erect signage, or establish home-based businesses without a permit or repeatedly violate the County Code.
• Establish a process that requires a property owner who has been issued an abatement order for a violation to either make the required corrections within the time specified or pay the costs for the County to use its contractors to make the corrections.
• Improve public outreach to those with limited English proficiency.
• Develop an outreach program on Permitting Services and Housing & Community Affairs code requirements – what is and isn’t covered, how the requirements are enforced, when permits are required, and how and to whom complaints can be made.
• Work with realtors to encourage them to monitor, and correct as appropriate, the number of bedrooms advertised in listed single-family properties.
• Provide information to new renters so that they better understand the landlord’s responsibility for property maintenance and know how to file a complaint.
Prohibit the parking of “heavy” commercial vehicles (10,000 pounds and heavier) in residential areas on-street and off-street and extend the definition to include vehicles 21 feet or longer, eight feet or higher including loads and racks, or vehicles that have a towing capacity of over one ton.
Heavy commercial vehicles would only be allowed to be parked on a public road where both sides of the road abut properties zoned exclusively for commercial or industrial use.
• Limit the number of “light” commercial vehicles that can park off-street in residential zones, with a larger number permitted in large lot zones.
• Require any vehicles parked in front yards to be on surfaced area.
• Prohibit parking of recreational vehicles on any public road, with a 24-hour exception for loading and unloading.
• Establish a 30-day limit for property owners to remove a vehicle that has been cited as inoperable or unregistered.
• Prohibit off-street parking of heavy commercial vehicles in agricultural zones. Farm vehicles and farm machinery are exempted.
Home Occupations (home-based businesses)
• Violators of Home Occupation or Health Practitioners code provisions would receive a citation, instead of just a warning as is present practice.
• Establish stricter limits on the number of vehicles that can visit a “no-impact” area.
• A registered home occupation may not begin without an inspection from the Department of Permitting Services
• Changes the proof that must be provided by a home-based business operator to demonstrate they live at the subject property
• Violators of registered home occupation provisions can have their registration revoked.
• Limits the loading and unloading of tools and equipment associated with a lawn maintenance home occupation to no more than two single-axle trailers or trucks.
• Require an approved inspection of any exterior surface installed as part of any renovation, addition, or new construction within one year of building permit issuance.
Residential Building Permits
• Require an approved inspection of a one-family dwelling or structure accessory to the residential use within six months of the issuance of a building permit.
• Require an approved final inspection within 18 months after a building permit is issued.
• Ensure that exterior finishing materials on projects match approved plans released with the building permit.
"II want to thank County residents for all their feedback on these issues,” said Leggett. “That feedback helped us to shape a package of changes that, I think, balances individual rights with the desire to protect the quality of life and safety in the County’s residential neighborhoods.”
Click here to see the Code Enforcement Work Group Final Report.
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