Thursday, May 31, 2007

Code Enforcement and Quality of Life (Part 4)

I've said before many times: we need a strategic approach to code enforcement. Right now our inspectors are just writing as many citations as possible all over town. I recently visited a homeowner who was cited for a small pothole in her driveway. The city street in front of her house was in far worse shape! Around the corner is a house that is literally falling down. The front and side porches and steps have collapsed and the house is in danger of doing the same. It has been deteriorating for 10 years.

The result is many angry homeowners who are cited for minor cosmetic problems. Eye sores and serious safety concerns must be the priority. When a dilapidated building is allowed to just sit as is, the neighboring property owners are less likely to invest in their properties. When a block or neighborhood is allowed to decline, crime rates up and quality of life goes down.

When our homes look this good, everyone benefits

When a home sells in Plainfield, a certificate of compliance is required. Since we are not using technology to the fullest, the process takes a long time and makes the home buyer and sellers life even more stressful than it already is. This can be fixed by giving inspectors hand held computers. When a home is inspected and passes, the inspector should be able to immediately print out a report for the homeowner or realtor documenting that fact. Just like when you are caught speeding and the police officer immediately hands you a ticket.

What is the role of City Council in what is really the responsibility of city hall administration? Our job is to give them the resources they need (through the budget) and hold them accountable to meet their objectives. The Council is also responsible for the ordinances governing code enforcement. When the administration proposed ordinance revisions to increase user fees, I was one of the Council members to table the proposal. My position is no fee increases until we fix code enforcement. I will be calling for a complete review of the code enforcement operation this year so we are using our staff effectively: to fix eye sores and serious safety problems and to expedite the sale of homes.

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