Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Illegal Construction Will Be Halted, Officials Vow

City Council President Ray Blanco promised tough penalties and even lawsuits to fight illegal after-hours construction that both residents and council members brought up Monday.

Resident Helga Roberts and others noted projects that exceed land use limits and said some are going forward just on the say-so of city inspectors, without review by the Planning or Zoning boards.

Blanco said the council is sticking together to resist lawsuits against the city, but he said he would favor making a lawsuit against someone doing illegal construction “to make an example.”

Resident Murray Roberts said code enforcement people are approving projects.
“Code Enforcement doesn’t know what they are doing,” he said.

The effectiveness of the Inspections Division has been a thorny subject for many years and the new administration has declared it a target for improvement.

Councilman Cory Storch agreed with Blanco that something must be done to deter illegal construction at night and on weekends.

“Nothing’s really going to change if you don’t change the mentality and structure of Code Enforcement,” resident Frank D’Aversa said, recommending staggered shifts so after-hours work can be monitored.

“It’s a good point,“ Councilman Rashid Burney said. “Inspections people are not supposed to be able to grant variances. If the Zoning Board gives approval, it’s up to Inspections to verify it.“

Councilman Don Davis and Councilwoman Linda Carter also expressed concern about the way the Inspections Division is functioning.

City staff took part in two days of strategic planning last week, Davis noted, citing a “lack of enthusiasm” on the part of some regarding their work.

As a result of the sessions, City Administrator Carlton McGee said, “I am pleased to report we have discovered some enthusiasm.”

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: inspections, planning