Opinion

Code Enforcement is vital city service

Among city services, Code Enforcement is vitally important to the safety, public health and appearance of our neighborhoods in Marysville.

Code Enforcement ensures compliance with the city codes and ordinances relating to junk cars, badly overgrown lots, piled up rubbish, illegally dumped garbage, houses so dilapidated that they would be deemed unsafe, and many more code issues and public nuisances. Code enforcement is tasked with achieving compliance to remedy these conditions.

Nothing devalues the quality of life in a neighborhood like junk cars, wildly overgrown lawns, piles of accumulated rubbish and other examples of neglect that constitute a public nuisance. The existence of problems such as these can signal a neighborhood’s potential deterioration, reduce property values and increase crime.

On a grander scale, issues like these detract from our economic development priorities to position Marysville as a hub of opportunity through a regional manufacturing, light industry job center in the Smokey Point area, and downtown and waterfront revitalization. A prospective company eyeing a move here looks at many variables in the site selection process; a general run-down appearance in the community shouldn’t be the reason they turn elsewhere.

Code Enforcement, under the Community Development Department, works in partnership with citizens, and coordinates with the City Attorney, Police Department, Marysville Fire District, Public Works, the Street Division and Parks and Recreation to devise innovative solutions to problems related to health and safety in our community.

Enforcement actions are taken both proactively and in response to citizen complaints.

When citizens seek relief from conditions in violation of city code on a property in their neighborhood, and talking to the owner, tenant or neighborhood associations is ineffective or not an option, a complaint can be filed with Code Enforcement. The form and more information are available on the city website at http://marysvillewa.gov, or call the Code Enforcement Office at 360-363-8208. If you’re curious, enforcement authority can be found in Title 4 of the Marysville Municipal Code.

The way it works, the Code Enforcement Office will follow up and investigate the allegations. Information is kept confidential to the extent provided by state law. It’s important to note that sometimes a simple eyesore can be more than meets the eye. Public health and safety issues may also be involved, resulting in more serious code violations that require investigation.

If a violation occurs, a Violation Citation is issued that explains the regulation violated, recommends corrective action that the homeowner in violation must take, and a timeline to comply. If corrective action is completed by the date given, no fines or penalties accrue.

If the corrective action is not completed, fines do begin, and accrue, while multiple warnings are given over a period of several weeks. If no action is taken on the part of the homeowner to correct the situation, eventually the person will be directed to appear before the city’s Hearing Examiner, which can result in more costs, fines and other penalties — legal action and even a lien placed on the violator’s property — until the work is done.

Code violation laws include provisions for civil fines that can range from $150-$300 for a first violation, and $300-$500 for repeat violators. More often than not, residents take corrective actions, and the case moves no further.

That wasn’t the case for a home in the 1500 block of First Street that wound up being demolished as a dangerous building after a months-long hearing and appeals process. For many nearby residents, as well as repeated visits by Police, as well as city Code Enforcement and Building officials, it was every neighborhood’s worst nightmare, from a quality of life standpoint.

From 2003 on, the homeowner was cited for numerous code violations. Over time, the house became a decayed and eventually dangerous building used by squatters and others for illicit drug activity. The home was in extreme disrepair with no running water or electricity. At an open record hearing in August, Police Officers who had visited the house said they observed cat feces on furniture, holes in the drywall, no kitchen appliances, broken windows, exposed framing, propane tanks used indoors for heat, missing light fixtures, exposed electrical wiring and plumbing pipes, black mold, filthy furniture, graffiti on inside walls, garbage everywhere and used drug paraphernalia. A junk vehicle, garbage and tires were outside of the house.

After an appeal process, the house was declared a Dangerous Building under MMC 6.24.050 (6)(7)(8)(12)(13)(18) Public Nuisances, and thereafter demolished.

Again, this is an example of a very extreme case where the city proactively stepped in and used the proper regulatory process to remedy what had become a very big problem in our downtown, an area that again the city is working hard to clean up to make a good first impression for prospective downtown redevelopment. I should also add that this was in a house in the city’s Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA), an area that the city worked with in 2012 during Clean Sweep Week by offering to remove garbage, tires, old wood and other debris at no charge to property owners.

Obviously, Code Enforcement would much prefer to work with property owners to take care of smaller issues before they become larger ones. As neighbors, you play a valuable role in working with the city to make your own neighborhood safer, more well-kept and attractive. The city wants to help to the best extent possible.

Mayor Jon Nehring can be reached at mayor@marysvillewa.gov or 360-363-8091.

 

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