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City bolstering property code enforcement

July 23, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Some home and business owners began receiving notices this week asking them to comply with city property code rules that are part of a wide-reaching visual improvement program.

More property owners can expect notices in the coming weeks notifying them of problems seen by inspectors from the street. Property owners must comply with the rules or they could face fines.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said the new efforts are part of the city's Community Enhancement Program.

"Coupled with the Rental Licensing (Program), the overall goal is just to improve the appearance of the properties in the City of Hagerstown for those that need to be improved," Tissue said Wednesday.

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The city last year instituted a rental program, which includes internal and external safety inspections. As with the rental housing program, the city will be ramping up inspections to the outside of owner-occupied homes and commercial properties to enforce long-standing codes.

The main change will be a move from infrequent inspections to regularly scheduled external inspections, said Amanda Miller, who will manage the new efforts for the city's code office.

Some property in the city's downtown will be inspected every year, while property toward the city's outskirts will be inspected every three years.

Miller said inspectors will be looking for things such as piles of trash, unregistered vehicles and chipping and peeling paint as they walk through neighborhoods.

Miller said most property owners will not face fines.

"We really are going to be working with the property owners," she said. Those who have inspection problems but work with the inspectors to get them resolved will be able to get extensions.

"It's the property owners who do have multiple issues and they're not willing to even get started on any of the issues" who will be the focus of their efforts, Miller said.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh questioned the program Tuesday after saying she had received letters from residents who had been notified of inspection problems.

"I'm afraid we're going to get a lot of phone calls on this," Nigh said during the council's work session.

Nigh also questioned what would happen with apparent eyesores such as the city's old electric plant at the intersection of Memorial and Eastern boulevards.

Tissue said Wednesday the Municipal Electric Light Plant building was sold by the city several years ago, but that city workers are in contact with the current owners of the building to bring it up to code.

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