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Appearances count with property code
Appearances count with property code
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Chardon residents may have to be a little more careful where they park if proposed changes to the city's exterior property maintenance code are adopted.
City Council's legislative committee got its first look last week at a proposed updated exterior property maintenance code that was prompted by recent complaints.
Steve Yaney, the city's planning and zoning administrator, said the existing code is "very dated." It contains a provision that calls for inside inspections, which the city has no authority to carry out, he said.
Mr. Yaney said he based many of the proposed changes on exterior maintenance codes in Mentor and Painesville. He said he also researched several codes from the state's largest townships.
The two cities in nearby Lake County do have inspections for rental properties, but Chardon is not now interested in conducting those, he said. "We don't want to do that."
Mr. Yaney said much of the proposed code deals with aesthetics. The proposal divides the property-maintenance requirements into two categories. One encompasses all properties -- whether residential, commercial and industrial -- and the other deals solely with residential.
The first spells out the requirements for foundations, exterior walls and surfaces, windows, doors, roofs, gutters, chimneys, porches and decks, structural elements, basements and decorative features.
Mr. Yaney said he or his designee would be responsible for enforcement.
He noted that, when windows or doors are broken out, the property owner has an obligation to "secure" the opening. Mr. Yaney said a tarp covering holes on a roof is not considered securing the property, while plywood over a window or door would be considered a temporary fix until replacement can be made.
The proposed code would restrict the size of vehicles that may be parked in residential neighborhoods. "No semi-trailer, or semi-truck, or commercial vehicle in excess of 10,000 gross vehicle weight (GVW) shall be parked on any property located in any residential district, except as those making deliveries or transporting goods to and from a residence," it states.
Mr. Yaney said the code, as written, would not exclude work pickup trucks with two ladders, but it's intended to address "very, very large vehicles."
Residences with garages large enough to accommodate semi-cabs can continue to park them inside.
City Council President Philip King said he's aware of one property where a vehicle with flat tires has been parked and covered by a tarp in a front yard for about 10 years.
The police department is responsible for junk in yards, including vehicles, Mr. Yaney said.
City Manager Randal Sharpe said police generally have not enforced the code if something is covered, but they have been directed to address that issue now.
Council members raised the issue of residents who park their vehicles on the grass in front yards.
Mr. Yaney said, because on-street parking is prohibited, many people use their front lawns to park vehicles when they lack space in their driveways.
Mr. Sharpe said many families, as their children grow up, acquire more vehicles that their driveways can no longer accommodate.
Councilwoman Deborah Reiter said she doesn't wish to see any prohibitions on parking on lawns. "That will be the next ordinance, limiting the number of kids people have," she said.
Mr. Yaney said prohibiting parking anywhere but in a drive could bring the most "flak" from residents. He said people can park in their driveways and still be in violation of the code, such as blocking the sidewalk, which is a public right of way.
Councilwoman Leslie Bednar said the city should be responsive to resident complaints. Although she does not want the city to constantly be on the lookout for violations, if one stands out, it should be addressed, she said. "We don't want to be only reactive."
The city also should be cautious about complaints that may stem from neighbor disputes, Mrs. Bednar said. "Sometimes they are motivated by something other than property concerns."
Mrs. Reiter said time limits for repairs should be instituted in order to be fair.
Mr. Yaney said, when property owners are notified of violations, they are given 30 days to respond. He said many will respond almost immediately, while some don't respond at all. He said the code calls for a "reasonable period of time" to make repairs, and that could vary, depending on whether it's just a handrail or an entire roof.
Law Director James Gillette said the code does not give the city authority to enter a property to make repairs if owners fail to do so.
He said the city has mowed properties and secured properties then placed liens on them to secure reimbursement of costs. He said those instances involved safety and health issues.
Mr. Yaney said a provision giving the city authority to make repairs could be added to the code.
Mr. Sharpe said he's concerned that some people facing repair costs could simply wait for the city to make repairs and place liens. "We can't have that," he said.
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