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Building inspectors might receive power to issue fines

October 03, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Some building code violators in Washington County could face fines of as much as $250 per day under a proposal presented Tuesday to the County Commissioners.

Dan DiVito, director of permits and inspections, proposed that the county's building inspectors be given authority to issue citations and fines for certain violations.

The commissioners would have to create an ordinance to allow citations to be issued.

A state law that took effect Oct. 1 gives the county commissioners the authority to approve civil citations for building code violations.

The permits department currently sends notices to violators and can take them to court if they do not respond.

The process can take months, and often the fine issued by a judge does not recoup the county's cost to pursue the case, DiVito said.

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"A citation ordinance would be a much easier, much cleaner, much more efficient way to bring people into compliance," DiVito said.

The citations only would apply in what DiVito described as "the most egregious" violations.

Citations could be issued when construction starts without a permit, when construction continues after a stop-work order has been issued, when a condemned building is occupied and when a building is occupied before all permits are cleared.

Under the proposal, people would be notified of their violation, and would have 10 days to correct it before a citation is issued.

For each day the violation goes uncorrected after that, a $250 fine would be levied.

The person being fined could file for an extension, and also could request a trial after the citation is issued.

Since 2005, the county's zoning inspector has had the authority to issue similar citations for zoning violations.

DiVito said about two dozen zoning citations have been issued since the program began. Of those, he said only five have gone unresolved before fines kick in.

Most of the commissioners said they were in favor of the ordinance, though Commissioner William J. Wivell said he was opposed.

"I think this is the most efficient way of getting the attention of the worst of the worst," Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said.

The commissioners asked DiVito to present the proposal at a public hearing that will be held to discuss the department's building code revisions.

County Attorney John Martirano said that hearing will be scheduled for November at the earliest.

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