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Thread: Code enforcement - bring on the angst

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Code enforcement - bring on the angst

    For the past three weeks, I've been sending out about seven or eight code enforcement violation letters a day. Most of the violations are junked cars, weed-filled lots, and properties filled with debris of some sort. Thing is ... in a town that doesn't have a full-time code enforcement officer, but which does have a very busy planner, it's easy to say "hey, Dan, do more!" Which I do, because it needs to get done ... unfortunately, at the cost of the piles of some unknown papers that seem to accumulate on my desk.

    Anyhow, I spend about half my day seeking out code violations, sending out certified letters with violation notices, or taking calls from angry residents, the most defensive being those with junked cars. I have a three page "Inoperable Vehicles FAQ" that accompanies every violation letter, yet the masses still ask the same questions and make the same statements the handout addresses. My car's not junk! (Not according to the municipal code.) I just have it under a cover -- nobody can see it. (Doesn't matter.) It ain't hurtin' nobody. (No, but 100 junked cars in a three square mile town are.) It's registered! (Yeah, and it's totaled, too.) It's a classic! (Yes, and it;s still junked, according to the code.) I'm selling it! (Doesn't matter.) Why are you picking on me? (You don't see the letters we send everyone else.) Why don't you do after cars in the other part of town? (We are, but you don't see the letters we send everyone else.) It;s my cousin's car, and he'll be out of town until June. (Fine. Tell him to come back and get it.) Can you give me an extra week? (No. When we give people extensions, almost always the cars are still there after the new deadline.)

    Well, the deadlines are hitting, and the hard working tow companies are toiling in the Florida heat and humidity to remove the first batch of cars that weren't removed. Today I had my first encounter of code enforcement Hell. A woman had an unregistered Pontiac Fiero, sitting for months on dense overgrowth, pulled off her lot. The property owner signed off on the letter some 18 days ago; the deadline was Friday, and the tow trucks pulled it today. However, the car ower's daughter signed for the letter, and never told her mom. Oh well ... car's outta' there, especially considering it's a "repeat offender" property. "But I sold the car, and the new buyer's coming to pick it up next week!" Sorry, but a lot of people claim that.

    The crying began. We're talking serious, "someone shot my kid" kind of crying, with appeals to Jesus and God and everything else. I feel awful, but there's nothing I can do. I feel for the cops that deal with crying motorists every day, pleading their cases and trying to get out of a three point offence.

    I've got some doozies coming up. Known tin foil hat wearers. A church. A former mayor. A 300 pound female cross country trucker with a plethora of lawyers. Race baiters. Nice residents that everyone loves, where I'll be pressured to give 'em a break, even though the Saab or Volvo in their yard hasn't moved in two years, and I've cited 'em twice in the past, and told the usual "I'll have it out of there in a week" line. This is a take-no-prisoners-and take-all-junked-cars sweep. May is not going to be a fun month.

    The Town Commission wants tough CE, and if you don't want it, vote 'em out. Once the town gets cleaned up, once we have a few more people crying over their dead grandmother's '78 Cutlass Supreme that was pulled off their lot after two years of collecting moss, things will get easier. I hope. CE work will then mainly be preventative maintenance, not a full-on blitz.

    I hope it gets easier, becuase next month it's time for all the home occupation licenses to be renewed. Judging from the heavy equipment that sits in the driveway of many town residents (remember, upper-middle income but still blue collar/building trades leaning), I'm going to be facing a summer of unhappy campers. "How come you're telling me now I can't have a cherry picker in my yard?" "How come you can have a 20 foot boat in the driveway, but not a 20 foot utility trailer?" "My landscape trailer ain't bothering nobody." "Why don't you take care of those run-down houses in the [insert race here] neighborhood?" I can hear it now.

    I almost feel like shouting "Jesus, take me now!", just like the woman cried today.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Try not to take it home with you (but you posted this at 2 AM). You can only hope that the citizens who are happy to see those things cleared away will let the elected officials know, but I'd beware the 300 lb. trucker woman!

    Are you taking before and after photos to show improvement? How unbiased is the local paper reagarding this?

    Oh, and my God wants me to follow rules, not invoke him when I don't want to follow them.

    Keep up the good work. When your real work isn't getting finished, maybe you can persuade the powers to hire a code enforcer.

  3. #3
          Downtown's avatar
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    blargh. i'm sorry, dan. May 30 is my landscaping deadline, and i've got a mile long list of property owners to go bully about getting their landscaping in or forfeiting their escrow. which would really suck, because it is such a process using escrow for landscaping work. anyway, i'll be thinking happy CE thoughts your way. good luck.


  4. #4
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Re: Code enforcement - bring on the angst

    Dan Tasman wrote:
    For the past three weeks, I've been sending out about seven or eight code enforcement violation letters a day. Most of the violations are junked cars, weed-filled lots, and properties filled with debris of some sort. Thing is ... in a town that doesn't have a full-time code enforcement officer, but which does have a very busy planner, it's easy to say "hey, Dan, do more!" Which I do, because it needs to get done ... unfortunately, at the cost of the piles of some unknown papers that seem to accumulate on my desk.
    Dan, are you my clone? I swear we have the same duties and problems. My name is Dan too. This is to weird.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    The bane of the faithful civil servant.

    The city council wants strict code enforcement - But when the voters turn that council out as a reflex against the code enforcement crusade they will want the new council to replace the last council's attack dog (That’s you Dan). They don't understand that you were trying to execute the wishes of the council faithfully. Give the Brits their due. Their civil service is a model we could do well to emulate. Unfortunately our politicians try to politicize the city staff in so many instances. Either you’re out of control when they get a complaint and you work it up quickly and efficiently or you are lazy when they get a complaint that you are not doing enough. My favorite is when they demand personal loyalty instead of professionalism.

    Dan – My advice is to shout “SERINITY NOW” randomly and bring in a doctor’s note telling the city council you have early onset Tourettes Syndrome. Then cuss like a sailor whenever you feel like it. Your job is now protected for life by the ADA!

    Getting used to having people lie to you was the hardest part of my CE experince. I never got used to that.

  6. #6
          Downtown's avatar
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    The lying. Yep. I have to agree, is the worst part of code enforcement. You want to believe in basic human decency and intelligence, but it can be very shattering to believe someone when they promise to get a fence installed/landscaping planted/lighting fixed and then 100% reneg. I just want to yell "What? Am I stupid? This is not a huge town, I'm not going to realize you didn't replace the 14 street trees you cut down?" grrr. Or my favorite "I didn't realize my clients weren't supposed to cut down all those trees so that people could better see my billboard." That from an civil engineer that's worked in the town for over 20 years.

  7. #7
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Re: Code enforcement - bring on the angst

    Dan Tasman wrote:
    The crying began. We're talking serious, "someone shot my kid" kind of crying, with appeals to Jesus and God and everything else.
    You're a planner... You *are* god.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  8. #8
    Once, two jobs ago, I was sitting in my office listening to a guy giving me the tall tale of woe. I looked him right in the eye and said "Johnny, you are a lying sack of shit".

    I still relish that moment even years latter. I usually tell other planners not to do that, but Dan I gotta tell you, it is sweet!

  9. #9
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    My CE officer just visited...

    He talked to an eye doctor who owns a burned out shell in town, got a "dangerous building" letter, and told my guy it wasn't "in his plans" to begin to demolish or repair the home within the alotted 10 days...

    There is now a letter on the way stating that it's in the city's plans to run a D-9 through the piece of crap, clean it up, and add the bill to his tax statement.

    We'll see what happens next. Stay tuned.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------
    C'mon and get me you twist of fate
    I'm standing right here Mr. Destiny
    If you want to talk well then I'll relate
    If you don't so what cause you don't scare me

  10. #10

    Put the hammer down

    Throw the book at 'em Dano. Mullett code violators are a creeping scourge of communities. I have a zero tolerance policy in my work, and as a result the housing court docket is a mile long.

    With that reputation the commercial properties don't mess with me. When they complain about CDBG storefront policies, I say "don't like the CDBG regs up your ass? Then try code enforcement." Then they shut their pieholes.

    Code enforcers don't threaten...they don't have to

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Jen's avatar
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    Ok Kelli You with the Tori Amos hair and petite feet are an enforcer! Do you have a special snarl reserved for those who might try to dismiss a pint sized miss?

    I think I might like CE, disarm with charm and back it up with heavy artillery. Besides the fact I am a natural snoop with an eye for changes in landscape.

    Wanna hire me Dan? I would love being near my bro's family in Winter Spring's. I'd even introduce you to my neice - a tall 20 yo blond coed.

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