2 minute question- Code Enforcement
Would you like to see the city:
a) Take a hands off approach where they respond to only those complaints that come in or-
b) Take a more stringent approach and seek out the violators throughout the city
and we’re starting with James Hansen on this one.
This is tough because I’m an auditor by nature and I teach my students if you don’t enforce laws, they don’t get kept. You know where you can speed in this area. Is that true? Some of you are like, “Yeah… I know. There’s no one in… I’ll tell you.” We need to have a little talk. But you love when, again, it’s a tough call. Cause I can think of my dear neighbors who water between the hours of 10:00 and 6:00, not the right way. I love ’em. And I know their situation. You know, it’s a tough balance. Again, do we want to be tattles on each other? One, it’s just… so, I don’t know. This is tough. But what I really think is that we need to find a happy balance and the easiest way to do it to just walk over to your neighbors and tell them what they are doing wrong in a loving and kind way and help them out. And if we do those type of things… so, I don’t know that it needs to be hands off but again, it comes back to use as citizens to do that. Again, if you’re not willing to, we need to actively push enforcement or go out and seek, that might be an option. But it’s really to keep our city the way that it should be.
And please don’t look up my old address and don’t find my neighbors. They are sweet people. They water during the wrong hours. I get it. We want to keep Kaysville the way we are. The best way to do that is to get involved as citizens and do the best we can and help each other out. Do it in a kind way. I’ll just leave it at that.
Randi von Bose
My family and I just drove back into town a couple of hours ago. We were on a road trip to explore Northern California and we went via Oregon. And as we went into our little town we were staying in in Oregon, there were signs every five feet. Like, here’s what you can do in this part of town and here’s what you can’t do. And yes, you can u-turn here and no you can’t here. And it was so overwhelming to me coming from Utah where we are not that society. We are a society of trust. We are a community of trust. We want to know our neighbors. We want to be friends with our neighbors. And that is why we don’t need signs every five feet telling us what to do because we do have those relationships. I don’t think that strict code enforcement fits with our community. I don’t think that is what the community ultimately wants.
That being said, there are times when we cannot resolve things neighbor to neighbor and friend to friend. And, just in this last council meeting (maybe two council meetings ago) it was asked about code enforcement and how is it done. And right now, the only time code enforcement happens is when a citizen calls in and asks for code enforcement to be done. I have no problem with that system but I think the citizens need to know that if there is something lingering, if there is a problem in your back yard that you can’t resolve, that’s when the city is there to step in. And as long as the citizens know that and are willing to take that on, I think that keeping our city, kind of, without the signs every five feet is a great idea.
So, if you live in Texas, a lot of areas in Texas, there is no zoning. There is no codes. If you build a house, there is a chance that a gas station could be built next door to you. And the best way they got around having that problem was they started HOA’s. And an HOA guaranteed that a home would be built to your home and you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Well, in Utah, in our community, we’ve decided that we are going to have codes. We are going to have zoning so that when you move somewhere, you can expect that a home would be built to you, by you. Or if you build a home right next to a general commercial area, you know that a store could be built next to you. But with that being said, as a community, if that is what we have and those are the codes and that is what we expect the citizens to live by, they should be enforced. And, what I find as a member of the council, is when the city is not able to enforce, a lot of times I do not believe that they do it on purpose. It’s a big city. Unless somebody calls in and tells them that there is a problem with somebody not living by the standards of the community in that area, then that is helpful. And that needs to be done. And people shouldn’t be afraid to do it. But it is nice if the city is able to catch something or if they know something, they try to work with people that are in violation. They try their hardest to work with the people because sometimes people don’t realize it. And if they do realize it, they give them a time frame. “Okay. We’re going to give you this long to get back into compliance.” That’s the way it should be. We should try and work with our citizens but we should also expect them to live by our codes.
I’ve got to echo James. This is a tough one. I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with the way that we do code enforcement now. It’s based on the citizens spot something that is maybe out of our code and so they complain about it and the code enforcement then acts on it or give people a chance to come into compliance before we take any big action. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that. But I can see how we don’t exactly expect our citizens to do a lot of other monitoring and let the city know. So I can see merit of having a code enforcement officer. On the other hand, again, I can think of a million things in the city that I’d love to pay for than a full time code enforcement officer.
So, I think that as I really look at this critically, I go, “I don’t thing there’s anything necessarily wrong with the way that we do code enforcement now.” I think that there is something necessarily wrong with the way that we communicate. I think there are a lot of people who don’t know who to go to if there’s a problem with their neighbors, anything. They don’t necessarily know where to go to to find out if it’s even against the rules. And I think it’s about the city, again, getting better at communication, new channels, new way to search for things, new ways to get a hold of the city- whether that tip lines or ways to submit it online. In particular, I think it’s about communication. It’s about communication with your neighbor and then once you’ve made a complaint or have an issue with zoning or some activity that is going on in the city that is effecting you, I think good communication, once action has been taken, back to you from the city. Because I think that’s something that doesn’t happen even though our folks do the best they can to take care of every complaint and address every complaint that comes in, they are very stretched. And I don’t think that we have a good mechanism to communicate back if we’ve taken action or why we haven’t if we haven’t. And I’d like to see that improvement made if we do stay with the current code enforcement mechanism.
The position in our city staff right now that deals with a lot of enforcement is community development. That person is also the only planner who’s on staff, that I’m aware of, here in Kaysville and is also supporting local business in working with those things. So, our full time staff, they wear a lot of hats. I believe this is very purposeful in the evolution of Kaysville as we’ve grown that Kaysville wants small government. So, there is, kind of, a trade off. There is often policy trade offs. And so we have a small government in Kaysville as far as how we are staffed full time for the size of the city that we are now and we are continuing to grow. He says that if everyone tried to police themselves and kindly went to neighbors when there are small issues, that would really make his job easier, save him time. He could do more important things than that.
And I will say, though, as I’ve been going around in the city in all the different neighborhoods, I have people who will point this or that out and say, “Just so you know, I want you to be aware of this going on right here.” And there are some construction projects that do never end among neighbors and it gets very hard for them. So, I’m kind of guessing the next thing I’d love to research is a little bit of what exactly it is that happens in our housing/our building department. There are some guidelines that will protect neighbors from things that are just big problems very close to them. That’s hard.
Something that is directly correlated is freedom and responsibility. So, if you want to maximize the amount of freedom that you have personally, your responsibility goes up equally. And I believe that if you have a problem with your neighbor, you should try to work it out with your neighbor first cause that’s the right way to handle things. I’ve seen it where, and not here in Kaysville, but the disgruntled neighbor uses city government as a harassment tool for a neighbor that they don’t like. So, we really need to emphasize how important it is for neighbors to work together.
And maybe we need to work on having good neighborhood groups. Maybe we don’t have HOA’s everywhere but maybe we need to have neighborhood groups that would be able to be an intermediary level between neighborhoods and city government. That might be an interesting thing to look at as far as self regulating those issues. And maybe you have a discussion together as a neighborhood saying, “You know what, we don’t like it when we have big piles of logs in front of people’s streets/houses for two weeks at a time. You need to take care of that or we can help you.” So, I think we need to emphasize citizen responsibility first and then, involvement by the city as a last resort. That’s how I would want it to be handled if it were me.
This is a tough one. To me, code enforcement comes down to two things. It comes down to communication and consistency. So, as a resident, in my experience with code enforcement, when you try to escalate to the city, I’ve never been responded with, “Actually, here are some measures that you can take. This is the protocol. Have you done these things? If not, we’ll escalate for you.” That’s how communication would be really wonderful. The second thing is that it’s really hard to find these codes that need to be enforced as a resident. It’s really hard to find it. The technologist in me is saying we can get that information available online fast. Tonight we could get it out there. We could get it search engine optimized so I get online and I say, “What’s the code for noise regulation in Kaysville city?” And within a minute on my smart phone, I know the answer to that. So when I go talk to my neighbor, we can have a conversation that is backed up by our city. And, we just saved our city staff a phone call and actually walking out there. We’re solving it on our own.
Hopefully in that same communication that we’re putting out there, we’ve said, “If you have looked at what the codes currently are and you’ve talked to your neighbor, the person you are afraid is infringing on those codes, you’ve gone through this process and you have still not made a resolution, here are the things you can do.” Hopefully a phone call to a city staff is the last thing. There are other ways we can use their time. Hopefully you’ve taken a picture with your smart phone. You’ve documented a paper trail, an electronic trail of all the times. You’ve documented your communications and now I’m empowered when I actually have to get to, either, the city staff level or hopefully not, the city council level. I have all of this information and we’ve both been working towards this goal together. And the second part is consistency. It’s really difficult as a city if you enforce a code one way this week and another way the second week. That’s difficult as a resident. I’ve been in that position. Consistency comes from communication and that information being available to everyone. Now it’s easier for me as a city to enforce.