Code enforcement, citation changes initially approved by city | Rowboat key

Changes to how city code violations are reported and handled may be on the way.

Following initial approval last week, city commissioners are expected to discuss the package of changes again in a public hearing on October 3. A vote of approval will then put the new plan into motion.

The order reflects revisions to the composition, organization and hearing process. The majority of the changes follow the termination of the Code Enforcement Commission, which ended at the end of fiscal 2019 and was replaced by a special magistrate, who hears the city’s side of the case. , the part of the accused offender’s case, and then makes a judgment.

The set of amendments presented to the city also clarifies the provisions concerning the role of the special magistrate.

“With the changes, new things we’re learning, new techniques and new state legislation coming out, in order to stay on top of things, we need to make sure all of our code enforcement orders are up to date,” Code Enforcement Officer said Chris Kopp.

The frequency of changes depends on the code itself. For example, the short-term rental code hasn’t changed since 1982 and remains one of the city’s signature regulations. In its most basic form, the rule prohibits rentals of less than 30 days in residential areas.

However, sea turtle protection regulations have changed approximately every four years as a result of new research.

One of the most notable changes to the application of the code relates to the reporting of violations. Due to a state bill that became effective July 1, 2021, anonymity for those who report a violation is no longer optional.

To file a report, individuals must provide their full name and address.

“There are two ways to look at it,” Kopp said. “First, you’re now going to have fewer people calling because they don’t want their name attached to it. There’s a concern there because people want to do the right thing, but they don’t necessarily want them to be the whistleblower. »

While Kopp raised concerns about major reports being deterred from being made, he vouched for change in terms of civil disputes between feuding neighbors.

“There’s also the other side where there are little civil disputes between neighbors and they sometimes try to call code enforcement to tell on each other,” he said. “They may turn out to be frivolous complaints, which then clog up our government system and our workforce.”

Several commissioners said they were uncomfortable with the state’s ban on anonymity, but Department of Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons said officers could always exercise discretion when investigating violations, regardless of the identity of the journalist.

Commissioner BJ Bishop also raised concerns about the compliance deadline, giving the example of loud music being revived shortly after the officers left.

As of September 16, Kopp had about 180 open cases. Every day he is able to close some and new ones arrive. Along with Kopp, Key police officers are also able to enforce code violations.

“We always aim for compliance,” Parsons told the commission. “We are not looking to have a source of income generation. Our first line of presentation of someone who may violate our code is not to issue a citation.

Additional codes could also be added to the list of those who qualify for an immediate citation rather than having to go through the hearing process. Examples of the new list include no dogs or cats allowed on beaches, property maintenance standards, sound regulations, floodlights or floodlights, and city code that regulates the size and placement of signs. temporary.

According to a staff memorandum, these one-time violations are those that are inherently transient, such as short-term rental violations that are corrected once occupancy ends. Staff said such violations are inconsistent with the typical city code enforcement process that provides the violator with multiple opportunities to correct a violation before receiving an order from the special magistrate.

Among those already on the list of one-time violations: unauthorized construction activities, turtle protection regulations, commercial vendors and other prohibited activities in municipal parks, public beaches and public beach accesses.

Once adopted, staff will initiate outreach efforts to inform the public of additional applicable code provisions through civil citations.

Generally, the fee depends on the number of violations. The first offense is a $100 fine. The second violation is $250. The third offense and each subsequent offense is a fine of $500.

Fines can vary and are left to the discretion of the magistrate. For example, a violation of the city’s short-term rental program would typically incur a fee of $100 per day of violation.

Special powers of the magistrate have been defined in the code amendments, which include the power to establish procedures for the presentation of cases, to control cases, and to enforce authorized provisions of the city code.

Among the proposed changes for the special magistrate was language indicating that the onus is on the city to demonstrate that a violation occurred, allowing multiple violations to be heard and the magistrate allowing extensions to return to the compliance.

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Kevin A. Perras