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Staff working with local jurisdictions to expand code enforcement tools

Posted on December 29, 2015

As code enforcement issues morph and grow, PDS staff and the elected officials they serve work to keep pace. As those issues present new challenges, the collaboration on which PDS was founded pursues new tools for its communities to use.

“Ten years ago when we initiated the One Stop Shop program, code enforcement was pretty straight forward,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Staff responded to complaints, visited the sites and sent letters, and followed up with those violators who resisted complying with local ordinances. It seems like everything’s gotten more complicated and time consuming since then.”

Gordon cites the many foreclosures witnessed during the Great Recession as the first issue to challenge PDS’ protocol for abating code violations.

“Keeping up with code enforcement issues prompted by foreclosures was extremely frustrating for staff. The homeowners were gone. The lending institutions weren’t stepping up to offer any assistance. So, the staff got trapped into wasting untold hours looking for people who were taking steps not to be found.”

The solution to this issue came in a program used by hundreds of jurisdictions across the country. As requested by most county jurisdictions, Kenton County Fiscal Court is now considering a county-wide Vacant Properties Registration Ordinance to remedy the problem of finding no one of record who is responsible for vacant foreclosed properties. Action on the proposal is hoped for after the first of the new year.

Staff’s second challenge came in the form of nuisance codes adopted by most of the jurisdictions served by PDS’ code enforcement program.

“Our first real experience with chronic nuisance codes came with ongoing problems being experienced at the old USA Hotel in Fort Mitchell. It seemed as though law enforcement, health department, and code enforcement officials took turns citing the owner for violations. Once the city adopted a chronic nuisance code, all agencies collaborated to get the place closed. A Mercedes dealership occupies that site now—a clear instance of success benefitting the city.”

The solution to this issue came out of discussions between Gordon and the chief executives of those jurisdictions.

“When confronted with the fact that the minor differences and form of their Chronic Nuisance Codes were going to prompt higher costs, the elected officials were pretty quick to suggest ironing out those differences and standardizing language,” according to Gordon. “We collected all the local nuisance codes and are working with legal counsel now to pull all the disparate contents into one model ordinance that can be adopted by each of the legislative bodies.”

The resulting model ordinance is near completion. Gordon suggests that a meeting of all jurisdictions to discuss the model will be held after the first of the new year.

“If the collaborative spirit that’s marked this process to date continues, we expect to have all jurisdictions under the new model nuisance code by the second quarter of 2016,” he concluded.

The One Stop Shop codes administration program was initiated in 2005 and 2006 at the request of eight Kenton County jurisdictions. In its earliest form, the program provided building and electric inspection services, zoning and property maintenance codes administration, and support for the jurisdiction’s board of adjustment.

It has since grown to include providing staff support for the Kenton County Joint Board of Adjustment and Joint Code Enforcement Board, collaborations between the Fiscal Court and a number of local municipalities. As for jurisdictions, the original membership of eight has more than doubled to include 17 of the county’s 20 jurisdictions.

A listing of those jurisdictions and the services provided to them can be found online.