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Residents attend code enforcement meeting

February 28, 2000|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Residents in several Hagerstown neighborhoods are taking steps to clean up their sections of the city by helping code enforcement officers identify problem areas.

Marc David, the city's code enforcement officer, told those attending a Downtown Neighborhoods First community meeting Monday evening that they can walk through their neighborhoods and write down violations they notice.

David suggested that residents who see something wrong could calmly discuss it with their neighbor in a nonthreatening way.

"Avoid confrontation," David advised.

"Sometimes that's not possible, and that's why I'm here," he said.

Residents should not trespass on private property and should leave enforcement to him, he said.

People can put together a letter or card with the list of violations and post them on the door of a neighbor who is in violation, he said.

One person from each group should designate a representative to discuss with him the violations and each attempt made to make the tenant or homeowner aware of the situation, he said.

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Violators need to be given a reasonable amount of time to correct the problem, he said.

The enforcement process takes time and it can be six months before people see changes, he said.

"When a complaint is turned over to me, don't assume nothing is being done," he said.

David is required to send a violator a series of warnings and impose escalating fines before taking the violator to court, he said.

He advocated lending a hand to neighbors who are elderly or sick by shoveling snow from their sidewalks for them. Neighbors could make a list of sidewalks that need to be shoveled ahead of time to ensure it gets done.

David presented the 25 participants with literature and clarified common violations found in the city.

- Grass or weeds higher than 10 inches in a lawn are violations. The code doesn't apply to weeds growing in cracks in a sidewalk, he said.

- An upholstered sofa or other indoor furniture is not allowed to be placed on a front porch, he said.

- Graffiti needs to be cleaned up promptly by the property owner.

- Brick homes with chipping or peeling paint must be repainted.

- Broken-down vehicles can be hard to identify and residents should leave that aspect of the code to him, he said.

- Garbage cannot be placed outside until 4 p.m. on the eve of the day of pickup, he said. Putting it out earlier is a misdemeanor and carries jail time, David said. He said the community group could have a sign printed listing the dates of the garbage pickup as a friendly reminder for their neighbors.

- Dog complaints should be referred to the Humane Society of Washington County, which enforces animal control laws.

- The Hagerstown Fire Department should be notified when there antifreeze or motor oil is spilled on the streets, he said.

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