Property Code Penalties to Increase
The new penalty schedule is among items on the agenda for tonight's agenda-fixing session. The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Hubbard Middle School. The ordinance increasing fines will be up for second reading and final passage at the Oct. 13 regular meeting.
The ordinance as offered does not show the previous penalties, but by comparing the section to that which is posted on Councilman Rashid Burney's web site, one can see the differences. Look at Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 4:17.
A violation of any part of the code would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, currently a range of $200 to $400. The current penalty for a second offense of up to three days of community service or jail time would be increased to up to 90 days.
As previously, each violation would be counted separately for imposition of penalties.
First offenses for certain violations are increasing as follows: Failure to remove trash and debris or failure to cut and maintain lawn, $150, up from $50; failure to remove abandoned/disabled vehicle, $200, up from $50; improper garbage storage, $150, up from $100; failure to provide garbage removal services no less than twice weekly, $150, up from $100.
Second offenses of the above violations could mean fines of not less than $250 and not more than $750 and perhaps three days of jail or community service. The fines are up from $200 to $400.
A new section has been proposed for third and subsequent offenses, with fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 and from five to 10 days of jail time or community service.
If passed on Oct. 13, the ordinance would kick in by November.
When the ordinance was discussed at the Sept. 8 agenda-fixing session, City Administrator Marc Dashield said code enforcement activities were being improved through establishment of a new task force that will review both the current building and health codes. The code enforcement task force will focus on rapid response to violations.
Citywide At-Large Councilwoman Annie McWilliams praised the administration for "using this overhaul of code enforcement to make the city look cleaner and nicer."
Code enforcement has long been a thorny problem for the city. The councilwoman's father, the late Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, said of all city issues, code enforcement generated the most citizen complaints during his tenure. A seven-member addition to the Inspections Division was created by his administration, but disbanded by the current one. Attempts to raise fees and make the Inspections Division self-sustaining were attacked by a real estate group, and a Safe Housing ordinance was repealed.
This year, code enforcement issues erupted into newspaper headlines after tenants of the city's largest landlord complained about elevator problems, sewage in the basement of one complex and numerous other violations. But just after landlord David Connolly appeared in Housing Court and was fined for violations, the Courier News uncovered complicated financial woes faced by Connolly Properties in Plainfield and other locations. The investigative series by reporter Mark Spivey is ongoing and may be seen at http://www.mycentraljersey.com/