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News about code enforcement

Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Uber Issues?

Posted by admin On December 9th

Anybody having any enforcement related problems with Uber within their jurisdiction?

Might want to see this article and advise on your issues for discussion purposes?

Uber vs. Portland: City reportedly tickets several rideshare drivers for running illegal taxis

Uber: City code officers try to ticket drivers Minutes after Uber rideshare launched in Portland without the city’s permission, code enforcement officers …

Squatter’s in South Florida?

Posted by admin On March 13th

Anybody having a problem with squatters these days?

If so…

How are your Code Enforcement Departments involved in correcting the situations;

or do any related complaints simply get referred to Law Enforcement for response?

Link to a recent story below:

Did you see this in the Sun-Sentinel:

“Robo-Calls” in Hollywood

Posted by admin On March 6th

Check out the new way one local jurisdiction is dealing with a very old and persistent problem  to frustrate violators and prevent illegal signs –

“STOP Snipe Signs” by using robo-calls

Then send us your thoughts and suggestions by adding comments below.

Snipe Signs in “Trashville”

Posted by admin On February 14th

Ingenious way to fight sign litter in Jacksonville is being wasted

by Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union, 2/5

 In 2010, the City Council boldly declared a “zero tolerance” policy for litter.

In passing the law, the council declared that “Jacksonville citizens believe that their city should be a model for beauty that is not surpassed by any city in America.”  Therefore, the city would become “litter free.”

 Ha. Ha. That’s a good one.

 It’s not that the new law wasn’t strong. It was.  In particular it went after “snipe signs,” those annoying signs that pop up on public rights of way faster than negative ads in the Republican presidential primary advertising everything from weight loss programs to offers to buy junk cars.  Tracking down who is responsible for the signs that litter intersections all over Jacksonville should not be that difficult. Most include phone numbers to call.  And the ordinance is quite explicit about who should get slapped with a citation.

 The ordinance reads: “The person or business who owns or is advertised or identified on the sign shall be presumed to have permitted the placement of the snipe sign in the absence of evidence to the contrary.”

 The penalty for breaking the law is progressively stiff.

The first violation is $50; the second, $75. For repeat scofflaws — five or more violations — the fine is $350.  And those fines are for each sign.

So why are the snipe signs still everywhere?

 Because the ordinance isn’t being enforced.

  “A warning citation and education is the first step and brings the violator into compliance,” the Mayor’s Office wrote in an email. “No money has been collected to date under this ordinance.” The snipers may indeed be slow learners, but if they haven’t learned about the law in the year and a half since it was passed, it’s past time to put some muscle behind it.  The problem isn’t just the clutter on our streets. Also missing out because of a lack of enforcement are  the city’s bus stops and bus shelters.  The ordinance provided that 70 percent of the fines collected would be put into a trust fund “to be maintained for the purpose of keeping bus stops and bus shelters well maintained, in good repair and litter free.”

 Seventy percent of zero isn’t going to help a whole lot.

 The other 30 percent was supposed to go toward paying for enforcing the ordinance.  If the excuse is that deep budget cuts the last few years have reduced the number of employees who  can enforce the law, there are enough snipe signs out there to finance an army.

The ordinance also allows for individual citizens to be certified to issue citations. So far, five volunteers have been certified, according to the Mayor’s Office.  Apparently there isn’t a lot of encouragement to do so.

 Zero tolerance for litter? Not until the snipers get hit in the pocketbook.

 (Snipe Signs in Trashville Part 2),

How you can help clean up trashy signs

by Ron Littlepage, Florida Times-Union, 2/8/12

 It turns out a lot of people are fed up with the proliferation of snipe signs that has earned Jacksonville the nickname of Trashville.  I heard from many of them after writing a column earlier this week about the lack of enforcement of a city ordinance banning the illegal signs that are stuck to utility poles and placed in public rights of way all over town. 

 You know the signs I mean:

Lose weight. We buy junk cars. We buy houses. Websites $99.

 And by enforcement I mean fining the repeat offenders as the ordinance allows, which hasn’t been done, rather than just having city crews occasionally pick up the unsightly signs.  Hitting the snipers in the pocketbook would get their attention.  Quite a few people who are tired of the mess are picking up the signs on their own, which the ordinance specifically allows.  According to the ordinance, snipe signs are considered abandoned property and are “thereby subject to being removed by any person, so long as such removal is accomplished in a safe and peacefulmanner.”

 Just be careful out there, folks.

 So now that you have the snipe signs, what do you do with them besides adding them to the city landfill?  One reader wrote that they make good tomato stakes. Here’s another good use: The Teacher Supply Depot at 3108 Lenox Ave. will be happy to take the signs.  “We do reuse the snipe signs,” the Depot’s Chris Buckley wrote in an email. “We have been making bird houses, recycle bins and other kinds of fun items.”

 Ridding our neighborhoods and streets of eyesores and converting them into something useful at the same time, now that’s taking lemons and turning them into lemonade.  (An aside plug for the Depot: “If anyone has old craft supplies, children’s games or books, sewing odds and ends, office or school supplies, science materials, paper or holiday supplies, or anything like these,

we are also interested,” Buckley wrote.

In passing the ordinance in 2010, the City Council declared that there would be “zero tolerance” for litter, including snipe signs, and that Jacksonville would become “litter free.”

That goal obviously hasn’t been achieved.

 On Saturday, a sign at the corner of Riverside Avenue and Post Street pointed to a gun show.  I followed the signs, stuck in the public rights of way at regular intervals, for several miles down Post.  Later that day, I saw the same signs posted many miles away by the Jacksonville Equestrian Center.  But these two signs, also spotted on Riverside, took the cake. 

One sign advertised a website for singles.   Beside it was a separate sign advertising a deal to makesnipe signs for $1 each.

 The scofflaws are bold because they are getting away with it.

That has to change, or we will ALL remain Trashville.

The Next Frontier?

Posted by admin On December 13th

Apparently the Occupy Movement is organizing to take things to the next level. Protestors may be coming to a neighborhood near you soon, to Occupy Vacant Homes of owners facing foreclosure or eviction.  

The Next Frontier may be Occupied?

How should code enforcement be prepared to respond?

Are you aware of any jurisdictions with particularly good codes which may be useful in deterring these actions and preventing all the potentially related problems?

Please provide us with your comments – good & bad below.

A Man with a BOLD Plan?

Posted by admin On December 7th

Here’s a link to a creative story about a man who has some very interesting ideas about a BOLD Plan on how to correct our current economic crisis. 

A Man with a BOLD Plan?

Please let us know your thoughts?

Riverfront Detention Basin – Fort Myers

Posted by admin On October 17th

Check out the story below on the proposed plans to construct a Detention Basin in the Fort Myers downtown riverfront district.  Construction is scheduled to begin before the end of the year and will cost about $4.5 million in tax dollars.

Riverfront Detention Basin Story  Let us know your thoughts on this project? 

And here’s a Related Follow-up Story.


“Yours in Public Service”

Posted by admin On September 15th

Don’t Peek Over My Fence, Mr. Code Man?

Posted by admin On September 8th

Check out this link to a code enforcement situation gone out-of-control.

Definitely NOT a good experience for any of the individuals involved.

Let us know your thoughts and any suggestions on how altercations of this nature could be avoided?

Squeezed Cities Ask Nonprofits for More Money

Posted by admin On May 12th
Check Out this article in The New York Times about Non-profits having to particpate in the Budget Crisis and let us know your thoughts?
By Michael Cooper – May 11, 2011


As recession-racked cities struggle to balance their budgets with everything short of feeling behind sofa cushions for loose change, a growing number are seeking more money — just don’t use the word taxes — from nonprofit institutions that occupy valuable land but by law do not pay property taxes.

Boston has been sending letters to its largest nonprofit institutions this year, telling them the value of their land and asking them to begin making annual payments that would eventually rise to a quarter of what they would owe if they paid property taxes. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel of Chicago wants the city to begin charging water fees to nonprofits, which have been spared them in the past. And the mayor of Providence, R.I., Angel Taveras, cited Boston’s example this month when he called on nonprofits to pay more money to the city.

“Every citizen, every city worker, every taxpayer, every business and every organization — including tax-exempt institutions — must share part of the burden of saving our city,” Mr. Taveras said in his budget address. He proposed closing Providence’s $109 million budget gap by shutting schools, laying off workers, cutting the Police and Fire Department budgets and raising taxes on homeowners as well as seeking larger payments from the city’s prestigious universities and other nonprofit institutions.

There is no question that nonprofit universities and hospitals — eds and meds, as they are known to planners — have played a central role in helping cities weather the Great Recession and its aftermath. They provide high-paying jobs, draw visitors and keep downtowns vibrant. But for cities that rely heavily on property taxes, those benefits have a cost. As nonprofits grow in size and importance in many cities, manufacturing has disappeared and development has moved to the suburbs, leaving much of the best land in some cities off the tax rolls.

So as the fiscal crisis lingers, some cities are weighing new fees on nonprofits for things like water service, street drainage and streetlights. Others, including New Orleans, want to tighten the rules establishing how tax-exempt status is granted. And many are seeking new or larger voluntary payments — known as payments in lieu of taxes, or Pilots — from nonprofit institutions.

But the effort to get nonprofit institutions to contribute more comes as many nonprofits are feeling the same pinch as cities: their endowments shrank as their investments lost money, contributions from donors and governments dried up and demand for their services remained the same or rose. David L. Thompson, the vice president for public policy at the National Council of Nonprofits, said increasing calls for nonprofits to pay more money to governments have left many tax-exempt nonprofit groups feeling demonized.

“Very simply, the social compact between nonprofits and governments exists to serve the public good,” Mr. Thompson said. “Changing the rules undermines the work of the institutions, takes money out the community and out of the services provided to constituents.”

The question of the payments has become a new wrinkle in the often-contentious relationship between town and gown.

Princeton University, for example, pays $1.2 million voluntarily to the Borough of Princeton, and $500,000 to the township. But when the university met resistance from local officials this year to some zoning changes it is seeking to build a new $300 million arts complex — especially to its proposal to move a train station a little farther from downtown — university officials said that they might rethink those voluntary payments.

“It would be difficult to justify continuing contributions at existing levels to local officials who not only refuse to help the university achieve a key educational objective, but in some cases have sought to prevent the project from going forward,” Robert K. Durkee, the university’s vice president and secretary, said in an e-mail, adding that the university already pays taxes on some properties that could qualify for exemptions, including housing for graduate students.

Boston is trying to avoid those kinds of negotiations by making its payments more systematic — an approach other cities are watching closely.

Boston is sometimes known as the Athens of America for its universities, and its hospitals and museums draw visitors from around the world. As the capital of Massachusetts, it is home to many government buildings, from the golden-domed State House atop Beacon Hill to the most obscure agencies. But there is a downside to all that activity, which is so central to the city’s character: it leaves more than half of Boston’s land exempt from property taxes, said Ronald W. Rakow, the city’s commissioner of assessing.

While Boston has long collected voluntary payments from its nonprofit institutions, it has done so haphazardly, with some universities paying millions of dollars, while their peers paid little or nothing. So Boston’s mayor, Thomas M. Menino, convened a task force that studied the issue for much of last year and decided to try to establish guidelines for the voluntary payments. This year the city is trying to collect voluntary payments from all nonprofits with property worth more than $15 million. The payments will eventually rise to a quarter of what the nonprofits would pay in property taxes if they were taxable, with the provision that they can get credit for up to half of the money they owe by providing quantifiable “community benefits” that directly help city residents. By the time the system is phased in, the city hopes its annual payments from nonprofits will rise to $48 million from $15 million.

“There are some institutions that have already signed on to the program,” Mr. Rakow said. “Others are taking a wait-and-see approach.”

A study last year by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a research institute in Cambridge, found that the voluntary payments had already been made in at least 117 municipalities in at least 18 states. But Daphne A. Kenyon, a visiting fellow at the institute who was an author of the report, said more cities were expressing interest in such payments as the fiscal crisis had continued, views of nonprofits had evolved and the antitax climate had grown more pronounced in many places.

“I think the most important conclusion is that this should be a collaborative process,” Ms. Kenyon said. “Because if you don’t make it collaborative — if it’s highly contentious, you could end up with no increase in revenue for the municipalities, a lot of legal bills and a lot of ill will.”