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charging for violations

ambmason

Cyburbian
Messages
46
Points
2
How are other zoning commissions enforcing the zoning ordinance for violations? Are you allowed to "fine" under your enabling legislations or do you have special "fees" for the daily assessment of violations?
We, currently, are only able to charge double the permit fee for work done before a permit is issued but that is generally not much of a punishment. Until we get some teeth in our ordinance we will continued to be ignored as people continue to open business, build additions, etc without giving the rules a second thought. Aside from making us look pathetic, dealing with these violations takes much staff time without any of those costs being recouped. Any ideas or past experiences?
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
We have authority to do triple permit fees, and following proper notice and procedure can fine anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per day of violation. We tend to write all for $100, as all citations are dismissed when compliance is achieved. (It also lets the judge know we are seeking compliance and not being bullies about it).
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,406
Points
32
We can charge up to $500 per day for any violation of the Municiple Code. Like Turk I will write for $100 and will usually dismiss upon compliance.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
If you are enforcing under zoning, it can be a killer. Do they have 30 days to appeal to the zoning appeals board? I have found it faster and easier to tie zoning approval to the building permit, and cite the miscreants through building inspections. This begs another issue--is too much put into zoning where it cannot be enforced? Portable and temporary sign regulations are often in zoning, but with the appeal period, violators could have their way. Most zoning enabling legislation grants alleged violators an appeal process before court time.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
17,837
Points
59
I'm considering a "sign removal fee" for snipe signs; document the sign using a digital camera, pull it, and send off a bill for a $100 per sign. (Snipe sign violations tend to be resolved by staff removal of the sign -- the place is small enough that I can do a sign sweep every day.) If the fee isn't paid, it's taken to a collection agency. Snipe sign removal fees and regular sign permit fees would help fund a town wayfinding program that I'm proposing. Also, word of the fees would spread through the sign poster's "downline," and hopefully we'll see fewer "make money fast" or "lose weight fast" signs posted in town.
 

ambmason

Cyburbian
Messages
46
Points
2
I don't think that the problem is that too much is undertaken with zoning, but too much time is lost between a violation being started and when it receives ultimate approval or a violation court date. Our "cease and desist" orders are basically ignored and the violation continues (and often grows) as we follow our existing procedure. the developer keeps building, the business keeps on operating, the historic building is further altered, etc.

Our goal is to make it, in fact, NOT easier to seek forgiveness than permission. If a violator ultimately gets approval for, say, a business he started without approval and operated throughout the approval process, his charge is simply double the regular fee. Not per day, total. It makes no difference that it was more than three months after the first notice was sent. We want to find a way to assess fees daily for violations, feeling that this will both help with administrative costs and help to encourage the public to get the permits first. We just need ideas on how to establish such a fee and what should be included. We regret higher charges for minor issues that the violator genuinely didn't know to get a permit for, but the big guys know better.
 

seannelson

Member
Messages
39
Points
2
Hello all,

This is my first post, I'm an assistant planner in Saline County, KS. I've been an observer on the site for quite a while. I'm new to the field, and am currently working on the planning degree, and I didn't want to make an idiotic post in case I ever meet any of you.

In our county we are able to treat each violation as a separate offense each day of the violation. This entitles the offender to a $500 per offense daily fee, which is waived upon compliance. However, we do have some violations which are slowly being addressed through legal action, these are mostly over a year old, if we could collect these, we could cover our budgets through this decade.
 

mike gurnee

Cyburbian
Messages
3,066
Points
30
Idiotic posts are no problem, and the cool thing is you can register as your boss!

Whatever you propose with fines, keep in tune with your jurisdiction's attorney. Don't adopt something that will never get prosecuted, and get from the attorney an assessment of the local courts. Some courts will not assess the "per day" fine until after conviction: (is it a violation until the court says so? lawyers ponder such things).
 

seannelson

Member
Messages
39
Points
2
I don't think my boss would appreciate me logging in under his name (besides he won't give me his password).

I was wondering if any of you have had any experience with a Codes Court. It is something we have discussed with our commissioners and legal people, but I haven't heard anything about it for a while. I was curious if anybody used this a means to collect fines and/or bring about "voluntary compliance."
 

NHPlanner

Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
9,889
Points
38
In NH we have to conform to the following burecratic mess:

676:15 Injunctive Relief. – In case any building or structure or part thereof is or is proposed to be erected, constructed, altered, or reconstructed, or any land is or is proposed to be used in violation of this title or of any local ordinance, code, or regulation adopted under this title, or of any provision or specification of an application, plat, or plan approved by, or any requirement or condition of a permit or decision issued by, any local administrator or land use board acting under the authority of this title, the building inspector or other official with authority to enforce the provisions of this title or any local ordinance, code, or regulation adopted under this title, or the owner of any adjacent or neighboring property who would be specially damaged by such violation may, in addition to other remedies provided by law, institute injunction, mandamus, abatement, or any other appropriate action or proceeding to prevent, enjoin, abate, or remove such unlawful erection, construction, alteration, or reconstruction.

676:17 Fines and Penalties. –
I. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this title, or any local ordinance, code, or regulation adopted under this title, or any provision or specification of any application, plat, or plan approved by, or any requirement or condition of a permit or decision issued by, any local administrator or land use board acting under the authority of this title:
(a) Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if a natural person, or guilty of a felony if any other person.
(b) Shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $275 for each day that such violation is found to continue after the conviction date or after the date on which the violator receives written notice from the municipality that the violator is in violation, whichever is earlier.
II. In any legal action brought by a municipality to enforce, by way of injunctive relief as provided by RSA 676:15 or otherwise, any local ordinance, code or regulation adopted under this title, or to enforce any planning board, zoning board of adjustment or building code board of appeals decision made pursuant to this title, or to seek the payment of any fine levied under paragraph I, the municipality may recover its costs and reasonable attorney's fees actually expended in pursuing the legal action if it is found to be a prevailing party in the action. For the purposes of this paragraph, recoverable costs shall include all out-of-pocket expenses actually incurred, including but not limited to, inspection fees, expert fees and investigatory expenses.
III. If any violation of a local ordinance, code or regulation, or any violation of a planning board, zoning board of adjustment or building code board of appeals decision, results in the expenditure of public funds by a municipality which are not reimbursed under paragraph II, the court in its discretion may order, as an additional civil penalty, that a violator make restitution to the municipality for such funds so expended.
IV. The superior court may, upon a petition filed by a municipality and after notice and a preliminary hearing as in the case of prejudgment attachments under RSA 511-A, require an alleged violator to post a bond with the court to secure payment of any penalty or remedy or the performance of any injunctive relief which may be ordered or both. At the hearing, the burden shall be on the municipality to show that there is a strong likelihood that it will prevail on the merits, that the penalties or remedies sought are reasonably likely to be awarded by the court in an amount consistent with the bond sought, and that the bond represents the amount of the projected expense of compliance with the injunctive relief sought.
V. The building inspector or other local official with the authority to enforce the provisions of this title or any local ordinance, code, or regulation adopted under this title may commence an action under paragraph I either in the district court pursuant to RSA 502-A:11-a, or in the superior court. The prosecuting official in the official's discretion may, prior to or at the time of arraignment, charge the offense as a violation, and in such cases the penalties to be imposed by the court shall be limited to those provided for a violation under RSA 651:2 and the civil penalty provided in subparagraph I(b) of this section. The provisions of this section shall supersede any inconsistent local penalty provision.
 

Murph

Member
Messages
5
Points
0
Enforcement through fines

NH, that is a quagmire of legaleze. .

This is what we all work with every day, it is an excellent discussion topic and any one of us could write a 20 page dissertation on: Why Americans Hate Zoning, 20 reason why you should never be a Zoning Officer....
We had a similar discussion today at work about the new littering fines on the public highways. It has been upped to $500 for some time and by doing so ironically has lost its respect and compliance. The Police will not issue the fine to a motorist that drops a candy wrapper , pop can, fast food wrapper (as much as I hate that) out the window. An officer will stop to fine them 50 dollars however, and many more thereafter, because it is not so onerous and fits the crime so to speak, the officer can get the point across to many more individuals, the fines are easily collected rather than ignored. A person is much more likely to appeal the 500 dollar litter fine and seek a technicality or leniancy than to pay. It is a waste of time and not being enforced like it use to when the fine was resonable and it reached to more people to learned their lesson.
The same, I believe is true of many zoning violations. In my job, I would rather be able to do my job with good conscience and to fine a property owner with a fee that can be collected.. The more we issue the fine we all know the more the word gets around and more people inquire before doing the deed.
We have the up to $500 per day the violation continues. We have fines up to $12,000. Never paid. Eventually complied, sort of, but it's a joke to see those kinds of fines levied even for a business. It's not going to be paid, way too much work for everbody.
I believe the solution is that violations be treated as minimum housing violations where the Judge can order the violation be eliminated, rather than be limited to fines. I noticed that some people have responded that they have citation abilities and I think that is key for the frequent and minor violations. The 30 day notice requirement is soooo time consuming.

Good topic.
 

Quit_man

Member
Messages
1
Points
0
Violations

Our ordinance allows us to charge up to $2,500 per violation, but this is a pointless provision. We do not want their money, we want their compliance. Since the City has electric and water utilities, interuption of either or both of these seems to get their mind right. We very seldom have any violations going to city court, or any court for that matter. I suspect the other planners are looking for the same thing and not all that interested in the dollar amount of the fine.
 

boiker

Cyburbian
Messages
3,890
Points
26
speaking of sign sweep, we just completed one. 115,000 people in Peoria. Between the three planners who do zoning enforcement we have almost 300 portable and temporary sign violations. The city looks MUCH nicer now.

Fines. We treat zoning violations as misdemeanor offenses. minimum fine of $150 + court costs with max of $500 +CC fines can be applied daily until violation is resolved, but usually not.

We are required to notify by letter first, before we can fine. I usually give people an opportunity to get the violations solved, sometimes too much time. But that's when i really feel justified taking them to court.
 

Murph

Member
Messages
5
Points
0
Good Job.
Yes it does require quite an effort at first but much easier to control once you blitz across town to remove. Unfortunately, much of your time will be dedicated to maintain the sign control, however, if there needs to be a guest speaker to the local chamber of commerce on the issue, or PR in the local paper, you in the trenches planners will have good insight on the good, the bad, and the ugly.
 
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