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Thread: Tell me about code enforcement

  1. #1

    Tell me about code enforcement

    I'm in the running for a job opening that has 50% of its time devoted to code enforcement. I know relatively little about code enforcement.

    What's your opinion about code enforcement? Does is suck? Is it OK? Will it burn me out or bore me to death? Tell me success and horror stories. I'm looking to stay in a stable job for 5 or more years. Thanks for the help.

  2. #2
          Downtown's avatar
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    I'm at about 33% code enforcement and I actually really enjoy it. Basically, our planning department enforces lighting standards, handicap parking and greenspace/landscaping. So even though my husband calls me the tree nazi, it's pretty cool to drive through your community and see a direct benefit from what you do at work. And it is extremely nice to get out of the office to go on inspections every so often. I think that it is one of those things that totally depends upon each individual person. One of my graduate school friends HATED inspections, would have rather spent her time drafting plans or recruiting companies in ec. dev. I know that many planners turn their noses up at current planning, but I for one get a kick out it. Good luck with the decision.

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Run from this type of work like it's carrying the plague. I know, because I accepted my first job in planning as a zoning code enforcement officer--just to get my foot in the door. It's the single most thankless job that I can think of. Accept any alternative.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Code enforcement should be a mandatory part of a planning career. A long range planner may recommend 'landscaping guidelines are needed'; a current plannner develops the regulations, and code enforcement gets the task of trying to make them work. The code enforcement person gets the question 'why do I have to plant a tree every 50 feet?' And while answering, you become more tuned to the problems of recommending strategies and devising implementing mechanisms. That jolt of reality can make you a better code writer and policy recommender later.

    That being said, RichmondJake is right. If CE is 100% of your job, and/or there isn't a program to move you around, forget it.

  5. #5

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    I have never done code enforcement but I did work in a (very large) city that had no code enforcement whatsoever. As a result, the work that the (200 or so) planners (or those who called themselves planners) did was, in essence, useless. We would require landowners to erect fences and plant trees, none of which was ever done. When they did, the fences were made of old garage doors and the trees were really just overgrown weeds. I wrote an excellent sign code, with a great deal of effort and research, which made absolutely no difference in the city because the residents knew that they could do whatever they wanted regardless of what the City required them to do. Also because of the lack of code enforcement, we had a serious illegal dumping problem. Many of the illegal dumps had been in operation for many years on public property because nobody checked up on them. I would consider code enforcement a very fulfilling and exciting career move; it would be a very good chance to make a real difference in the community. Laws are fine and dandy, but pretty useless unless somebody who cares about them is committed to enforcing them.

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Oh planman, you're killing me here buddy. So you wrote a sign ordinance that everybody just ignored? Did you get community buy-in? Do any out reach while writing your opus? You advanced planners just crack me up. Come on, enjoy life and get down here in the trenches with us current planners. So you think code compliance would be "a very exciting and fulfilling career move..."? I'm laughing so hard...I don't know if it's the wine or your observations.

    In all seriousness, I did the job as I mentioned...it's thankless and you gotta have a cop's attitude to do it--which I don't have. I commend the staffers that are successfull in that environment.

  7. #7

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    Glad that I could amuse you RichmondJake. The sign code was part of an entire re-write of the zoning ordinance. Yes, there was quite a lot of community involvement in the zoning re-write, but not specifically the sign code.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    I have held several positions that required some form of CE duty. I was quite content when my decisions were backed by the politicians. The work was almost enjoyable. I met many nice people and the job was very rarely confrontational. I felt the satisfaction that comes from making my community a little better every day.

    However, I almost went postal when I worked for a particularly apathetic group of dimwitted politicians that only saw my office as way to oppress our large minority population. Having positions reversed or ignored because we dared to apply the law equally and fairly was very frustrating.

    Donít work for people who fail to grasp the significance of the Fifth Amendment to our constitution.

    Good Luck

    And yes, I did carry a "stinking badge" as a CEO.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    code enforcement

    Ask them this question: Is there an agressive or passive philosphy towards enforcement? By passive, I mean pre-occupancy compliance, and complaint-driven enforcement, or are you the Zoning Nazi that drives around looking for ttrouble? I've worked in both environments. Passive is by far the best - people usually don't end up hating you! Good luck in your decision.

  10. #10

    Code Enforcement

    If you have no background in the field, why do you feel well qualified to take the position?

    You can achieve great job satisfaction if you follow the code. While planners dream of a better future, somene has to be the cop with regards to land uses that get out of line - whether it be minor issues involving building condition, to more substantial issues such as public nuisance activities. You must be patient as compliance is not an instant event. There can be some dangerous situations if, in your jurisdiction, there are tough neighborhoods or scary business establishments. You may working with police, city attorneys, planners, neighborhood organizations. You may be the one the newspaper shows closing the day care facility - like the despised meter maid.

    In the end, you need to do a little soul searching as to what you want to do for a living. Best wishes.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian GeogPlanner's avatar
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    I don't know if I could handle it for 5 or more years, but code enforcement can be rewarding depending on where you work.

    I agree with working in a response driven, pre-occupation setting. You see results! As a planner, it's tough to see immediate results, but working with codes, you can really develop a community's image. I've seen some great work by a codes attorney that has delivered results in a community where code enfocement had fallen apart over the past 20 years.
    Information necessitating a change of design will be conveyed to the designer after and only after the design is complete. (Often called the 'Now They Tell Us' Law) - Fyfe's First Law of Revision

    We don't believe in planners and deciders making the decisions on behalf of Americans. -- George W. Bush , Scranton, PA -- 09/06/2000

  12. #12
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    CE

    Been doing it for nearly 7 mo now. It takes up approx 40-60% of my job. the work is rewarding. I've just completed a sweep of temporary banner signs w/o permits in my area of town. It's amazing how clean it now looks. Some people are really understanding and accept the zoning laws, other's just yell and fight. it's fun either way. You really get to know and understand the zoning code when your in CE. If you let the citizens come to you with complaints, you'll never get any and people get complacent. If you attack everything word for word to the code, you get no respect and it gets difficult to deal with people. If you fall in the middle you get by far the most good results.

    I do CE for an area with a population of 40-45,000 people. good and bad neighborhoods. I've realized that residents are willing to work with you, but have a harder time getting stuff done. Commerical properties never work with you until you ticket them, then the work is done in a flash.

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