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County Cable 6
|Remarks by County Executive Ike Leggett Code Enforcement News Conference
|One year ago, I released the report of my Code Enforcement Work Group, which recommended sweeping changes designed to aggressively tackle a broad range of issues that impact the quality of life and safety in County neighborhoods.
One of the principal reasons people move to or stay in Montgomery County is our quality of life.
That quality of life is being eroded today by the encroachment and expansion of commercial activities into our residential neighborhoods and by loopholes or flaws in our County code that do not address harmful practices or allow for timely resolution and enforcement of code violations.
I’m happy to be joined today by Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg, Dale Tibbitts from Councilmember Marc Elrich’s office and by civic and community leaders who share my concern.
These issues range from parking of commercial and residential vehicles to home-based businesses to building permit abuses.
Residents are rightly concerned that portions of the County Code are outdated, that enforcement is uneven, that too much time passes between the issuance of a Notice of Violation or (NOV) or citation and correction of a code violation, and that there is not enough coordination between various County departments.
Since I directed that my Work Group be formed, we have moved quickly to change practices and improve coordination between County departments – reforms that didn’t require a change in law.
• We have increased fines for repeat Housing Code violators from $500 a day to $750 a day.
• We have expanded 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.
• We have developed and implemented on-line complaint forms on the Housing & Community Affairs and Permitting Services.
• And we are crafting an educational campaign – in English and Spanish – to inform property owners and renters of their rights and responsibilities in preserving Montgomery County’s quality of life.
Some pieces of this Quality-of-Life program, however, require Council approval.
Already, I have worked with the Council to pass a measure that prohibits parking heavy commercial and recreational vehicles on public roads in residential areas – and it is making a difference.
And on October 6, the County Council approved the Bill 23-09 which limits the storage of inoperable, unused and unregistered vehicles in residential neighborhoods to 30 days.
Again, so far, so good.
But progress has stalled on Zoning Text Amendment 09-03, which is designed to further restrict the encroachment and expansion of home occupations into residential neighborhoods, as well as limiting the paving of front yards and prohibiting the off-street parking of heavy commercial vehicles in residential zones.
The Council version, amended in committee, would largely adopt my proposal, but is different in that it allows small tow trucks to park in residential neighborhoods.
I oppose this change in the legislation I presented. Allowing pick-up trucks and small vans is one thing. Tow trucks should be parked elsewhere.
And still pending before the Council are Bill 24-09 to limit permits on unfinished residential construction to 18 months (currently there is no deadline), and Bill 22-09 to speed up the process for resolving code violations.
Unfinished residential construction is a blight on communities. Common-sense restrictions are preferable to no time limitations at all – which is the status quo.
Resolving code violations in a timely manner is a particular problem. By permitting violations to be appealed directly to court, rather than adding another layer of adjudication with the Board of Appeals in most cases, we can avoid endless appeals and get violations corrected, pronto, while still respecting property rights.
All three of these measures will help protect the quality of life in Montgomery County. They are straightforward. They make sense. The time to act is now.
We need bring ZTA 09-03, Bill 24-09, and Bill 22-09 to the full Council for action as soon as possible. Our neighborhoods have waited long enough.
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