Archive for Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Council to get tougher on code violators

July 25, 2007

Residents watch out -- the city of Tonganoxie is going to start cracking down on code violations.

Tonganoxie Planning Commission Chairwoman Diane Bretthauer urged the City Council, at its meeting Monday, to take a tougher stance on enforcing city codes.

"We are concerned that we are working as a committee to write ordinances and zoning, but they are not getting enforced," she said.

Specifically she was referring to an off-site sign advertising the Jackson Heights and Willow Pointe subdivisions on U.S. Highway 24-40 and Laming Road. The sign was in violation of planning regulations.

"The gentleman had it up there for at least six months before he even got a letter," Bretthauer said.

To her surprise, city staff told Bretthauer that unless someone complains about violations, the city doesn't always enforce the regulations.

"That concerns us in planning and zoning because if we are going to go through the time to look at the regulations and look at the zoning, we feel that it is up to city staff to get them enforced," she said.

Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, told the council the city inspector did not go around looking for violations like grass that is too tall, but the city would act on complaints from other residents.

Part of the reason why the sign may have been up for so long is that not everyone is aware of all of the regulations, including Danny Dodge, the city's building inspector and code enforcement officer, and Bretthauer, Mayor Mike Vestal said.

"Without knowing it, he would have went by that 100 times and not paid attention to it because he didn't know it was in the regulations, just like you who are chairman of the planning commission didn't know it," Vestal told Bretthauer.

She agreed and said the committee and the city needed a better way of working together.

Council member Jason Ward had an idea to make a list of codes that really needed to be addressed.

"I know that we could go through the whole code book and say this entire thing should be enforced, and it should, but here are probably those things that we can say, 'OK, these are the things that we need to really focus on,'" Ward said.

Tuesday the city staff began working on a list of people who are violating some of the more common ordinances like: tall grass and weeds; untagged or junk vehicles; dilapidated structures and general trash that hasn't been removed from a property.

Bard said each of the violators will receive a letter from the city giving them about 10 days to comply with the ordinance. She said after that it will be up to the council to decide how far to pursue these abatements.

"I don't want to waste any time if the council is not going to act on code enforcement," Bard said. "It's a lot of paper work."

Vestal agrees and said it was up to the council members to stick to their guns and stay aggressive on these actions so the city can remain beautiful.

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