Frederick’s elected officials are considering different ways to fine owners that constantly violate the city’s property maintenance code.

The mayor and aldermen talked Wednesday about additional ways the city’s code enforcement staff could use escalating fines against repeat offenders.

The goal is to give code enforcement the tools it needs to see greater compliance, said Mayor Randy McClement.

The three of the five aldermen who were present for the discussion thought city code should change in a few ways.

First, two violations, one for filth and rubbish and the other for grass and weeds, should have the same escalating fine structure as all other property code violations. The maximum citation now for those violations is $100. The change would make it so the maximum citation could be up to $1,000 on the third violation in a calendar year.

Second, inspectors should be able to issue a citation immediately upon noticing the same violation repeated by the same property owner, rather than having to first issue another notice of violation and then wait to see if the problem is corrected before issuing a citation. Also, they said, the inspector should be able to increase the citation amount on the repeat offenses if necessary.

For example, if grass at a property grows over the allowed length of 10 inches, an inspector issues a notice of violation, and the property owner cleans it up. But then the grass grows higher than the allowed length again. That is when city officials want the inspectors to be able to issue not just another notice of violation, but also a citation with a fine attached.

This will help deter repeat violations, the aldermen agreed.

If not, Alderman Michael O’Connor said, it’s just “notice of violation, after notice of violation, after notice of violation for the same offense.”

The aldermen also agreed that inspectors should have flexibility of the amount of fines and when they are used.

The board will vote on the issue at an upcoming public meeting.

The original recommendation for code enforcement to use escalating fines to address repeated violations came in 2012, from the city’s blighted and vacant task force.

The code enforcement staff has had the ability to use escalating fines since November, said Dan Hoffman, division manager of code enforcement.

For the first citation, the property owner receives a fine of up to $400; the a second offense of the same violation in the same calendar year is a citation up to $800; and the third offense of the same violation in the same calendar year is a citation up to $1,000.

Code enforcement staff has not yet used this procedure, Hoffman said.

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

(4) comments

Dwasserba

I don't think fines are creative enough.
If property owners are behaving in an insensitive/immature way, the penalty should reflect it. As in, mow your lawn *and* your adjoining neighbors' for as many days as you were in violation.
If you own a crappy condemned building you have to live in it yourself or sell it to someone else. No more of this building hoarding for no purpose whatsoever. Any building you own that starts to deteriorate, you better plan on occupying.

ClimberChris

This would be a great idea if Frederick would stop dismissing and/or reducing fines.. *cough* Asiana *cough*

quemzeee2

So, if you buy a home it is in part priced due to the local market or neighborring area. So if your neighboor or neighborrs, all let that market down, You in fact are losing money.
As it is now, the massive amount of rentals in this city of townhouses and homes have in fact damaged some of our investments.
It is to the point now where some of the N.A.Cs are no longer whole in scope of realty advertisments. Such is the case of N.A.C. where this past 5 years the Realty folks have succesfully separated anything west of Butterfly lane from anything East of the lane. Huge Financial difference now.
It is also evident that the last 5 years H.O.A manageing companies have become so frustrated with repeat offenders they have literaly stoped interviening on behalf of there constituents. They have given up due to the lack of impetus on the part of the city to get protective of home owners. You are now punished becuase you live in certain areas. Weird.

Dwasserba

True.
Every part of every disparaged neighborhood isn't objectionable, but if you have a house for sale with the "usual" things buyers want, how long before they see that house, if ever? Dead end street, one owner, gas fireplace, low maintenance exterior in neutral colors, garage, walk to elementary/middle/high school and community college and city parks, close to 15? Available now. I don't spend my life in my front yard, but I haven't seen it shown once since it was listed. Over the years, people new to Frederick that have visited my home have said things like, "I didn't even know this neighborhood was here" and "Oh! But this is *nice*!" - when no one has said, "welcome to my crummy neighborhood!" It does affect how much more you are willing to invest to see homes that belong to more particular people sit on the market. In the meantime, we have ultra convenience but are invisible.

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