Monday, May 25, 2015

Metro Council proposes classes for Codes Offenders

Metro Council proposes classes for code offenders
Metro Council proposes classes for code offenders
Macaela Bennett, mbennett@tennessean.com 3:45 p.m. CDT May 25, 2015
http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/05/25/council-proposes-classes-code-offenders/27831279/http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/05/25/council-proposes-classes-code-offenders/27831279/

Think of it as traffic school for piling trash in your yard or neglecting to mow the lawn for many months.
Metro council passed a proposal sponsored by council members Fabian Bedne and Karen Johnson on first reading Tuesday that would open a "Codes Violator School" similar to the format of traffic violation classes.
"It's a constant struggle to have code issues addressed," Johnson said. "We came to the conclusion that we have got to do something because the process as is is not responsive and not working."
Right now when a code violation is reported, the code inspector gives the homeowner 30 days to fix the issue and those who don't meet that deadline are given a citation and a court date. Afterward, the judge determines the violator's penalty.
"This (class) is another tool the judge can use if he feels that it's the best way to deal with the issue," Bedne said. "I expect them to use this tool in a surgical way and not just throw it at everyone."
According to Bedne and Johnson, the current system leaves many issues unresolved as some violators often don't make an effort to comply or show up for their court dates.
For instance, Johnson said she regularly passes a house that has unresolved violations for at least three years.
"When I called a neighbor to ask about it (the problem house), he said he had given up because he doesn't understand why something clearly presenting a safety issue to him and other neighbors takes so long to get resolved," Johnson said.
And this is not an isolated incident, she said.
Bedne said he believes many residents do not understand that codes are in place to protect everyone's safety. He said this school would induce higher compliance by providing students an understanding of the reason for the city's standards.
"Trash piled in a yard is not just aesthetically displeasing, it's a health issue. It attracts vermin that can spread to neighbors' homes," Bedne said. "This is an opportunity for someone who is not understanding why codes are important to them, their neighbors and the city."
Both council members say their proposal has been well received by their constituents and the rest of council.
"I've already had people emailing and calling me saying it is a good idea," Johnson said. "Ultimately what we want to accomplish is a reduction of property issues that cause safety problems, educate people why it is important to keep their property safe and reduce the number of things council members have to follow up on."
The proposal must pass through two more readings before becoming law. If the Metro council approves the class, each would cost around $90 at the student's expense.
Reach Macaela Bennett at 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Macaela_.

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