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Residents could be fined for violating zoning ordinances

December 22, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Property owners written up by Washington County for having junk vehicles on their properties or for other zoning violations might be fined $100 per day if they don't clean up within a certain amount of time.

Members of Washington County's Planning and Zoning departments pitched the proposal to the County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, property owners would be notified of the violation and given 15 days to comply with the zoning ordinance.

If a property isn't cleaned up after that, the owner would be fined $100 a day until the issue is resolved.

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A vote on the proposal was put off after two commissioners voiced concerns about the enforcement procedures.

"I just think it's a terrible way to proceed," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said. "A hundred dollars is a lot of money to a lot of folks. We're not a rich community."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he wanted the enforcement regulations to be more specific. He said the proposal left "too much open for interpretation."

He also suggested an extension of the time requirement.

After the meeting, Wivell said the proposed fine was "overkill" that could end up resulting in large costs to property owners.

"It all goes back to property rights ... until it interferes with their neighbors' rights to use theirs," Wivell said.

Planning Director Michael Thompson said after the meeting that Zoning Inspector Chris Nicholson currently issues notices of violation to property owners. If property owners continually violate the zoning ordinance, they could be taken to court.

The proposed regulations would be another tool the county could use to get those who ignore the notices to comply with the zoning ordinance, Thompson said.

"At some point, something absolutely has to be done," Thompson said.

Of the approximately 200 calls the department has received regarding possible zoning violations, most of those determined not to be in compliance ended up cleaning their properties, Thompson said.

But the county also has run into some "stubborn cases," he said, and a fine of $100 per day might grab their attention.

"We're really serious about this," Thompson said. "You need to clean up."

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