Council Split on Code Enforcement

BLYTHEWOOD – If residents of the Town of Blythewood want to keep the community clean and aesthetically pleasing, they may have to take matters into their own hands. At a Town Council workshop last month in which code enforcement was a topic of discussion, Town Administrator Gary Parker suggested that even a part-time employee dedicated to code enforcement might be more than the Town needed or could afford and that the Town might want to rely on complaints from citizens to identify code violations in the town.

During the past year, the subject of code enforcement in the town has come up in Council discussions regarding signs for yard sales, unpermitted vendors selling used lawn mowers in the middle of the town and other violations of the town codes. But Mayor J. Michael Ross has not embraced the hiring of a code enforcement officer, and at the September workshop Parker appeared to support that thinking.

“Generally, no municipality can devote its limited resources of staff time to an aggressive and comprehensive code enforcement program,” Parker told Council members.

But Councilman Bob Massa disagreed.

“I still think we need a code enforcement officer,” Massa said. “There is so much going on to put the onus on town staff. And we know residents aren’t going to want to complain about their neighbors most of the time because they’ve got to live with them.”

Councilman Bob Mangone agreed with Massa.

“Or they complain in a way they don’t want their neighbors to know. It might not be a bad idea to have someone who could deal with all the citizens’ complaints,” Mangone said. “At least one person (at Town Hall) who people could call about a code violation. (That person) could be paid by the hour. If there are no complaints, they don’t get paid.”

Parker said it was something to keep in mind, but he pointed out that a code enforcement officer is not in this year’s budget, not even on a part-time basis. Massa suggested that there are some areas of code enforcement, such as permitting and business license fees, that would pay for the cost of an enforcement officer. He cited an example in his own neighborhood where a nonconforming, unpermitted building went up. And he said neighbors did not complain or didn’t complain strongly enough about unlicensed workers doing the work.

“A main source of revenue is business license,” Massa said. “I’m willing to bet that a part-time code enforcer would pay for himself just in that.”

On that subject, Mangone said he didn’t think workers who come in to the town to do work should have to pay a business license if they tell the homeowner the job is the only one the worker is doing in the town.

“I don’t think it’s fair to make someone purchase a business license to come out and fix my sink,” Mangone said.

Massa disagreed. “Every municipality requires it,” he said. “It’s the only way we have to make sure they’re doing proper work.”

Ross countered that the license fees charged by the Town are then passed on to the consumer. It has been discussed at other Council meetings to issue decals for vehicles of licensed workers as a way to be sure contractors and others doing business in the town limits do what they are supposed to do and get a license. Mangone suggested having a floor on business licenses for workers from outside the town.

“You know, anything under $1,000 doesn’t need a business license,” Mangone suggested.

Parker also noted that the Town does not have specific ordinances addressing such violations as overgrown grass and abandoned or junked automobiles.

“Most municipalities have those,” he said. “Instead, our code section on property maintenance merely references International Property Maintenance Code, which isn’t as specific on the definitions of violations, nor on the enforcement process.”

“I don’t think citizens are aware of these international codes, though,” Massa said. “We do need citizen complaints, but we need a code enforcement officer.”

The subject of code enforcement was not on the agenda for discussion or a vote at the following Town Council meeting. The next Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Oct. 27 at The Manor.

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