To address land use code violations that some officials say have become too great for existing staff, Grand County will now utilize a code enforcement officer that can issue citations under certain protocols. The Grand County Council approved the part-time position Jan. 3.
The code enforcement officer will be housed within the Grand County Community Development Office. The Grand County Planning Commission and the council will hold public hearings beginning later this month to take input on code enforcement regulations.
“By hiring a part-time staff member, we’ll have a staff member solely focused on administering the code enforcement protocol from start to finish,” said Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine.
According to the job description, the code enforcement officer will ensure “all steps of the code enforcement protocol are followed,” from the initial observation of a code violation to compliance responses and citations, as well as sending any unresolved issues to the Grand County Attorney’s office.
Levine said the officer will work closely with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, county attorney, building officials, and health inspector and must have the ability to interact with people in emotional situations.
“I anticipate the target audience for this job description will be retired law enforcement officers,” Levine told the council Jan. 3. “It’s not the most desirable position.”
Citing the difficulty of the work, council member Greg Halliday questioned the suggested $15 per hour wage.
“I think that’s cutting it close,” Halliday said. “You’re asking people to go out and face some irate people [and] you’re only paying them $15 an hour to do that.”
But council member Chris Baird said the council only budgeted $20,000 for the position in the 2017 fiscal year.
Levine said the officer might initially work just one day per week.
“There’s certainly a fair amount of code enforcement to be done, but I don’t think we’re at the point where we can offer 20 hours a week,” Levine said.
The issue of code enforcement was first raised during council workshops last May, sparking the creation of a code enforcement protocol for the county’s land use code.
In the draft protocol, common violations include the presence on property of inoperable vehicles, junk and refuse, as well as non-residential structures used for dwelling units, and issues related to overnight accommodations.
In May, Levine said county staff did not have clear directives for following through on code violations or complaints. He told the county council that his department would send two letters to a person in violation of a code and “then we don’t have any other recourse, really.”
The draft protocol gives the code enforcement officer the directive to send two notices to a violator before issuing citations. If the code violation is still not corrected by the issuance of a citation, the draft protocol states, the county attorney will determine whether to pursue legal actions.
Levine said in his research into code enforcement protocol he found the most important tool for successful enforcement was the ability for the officer to write citations.
“As part of our reaching out to other jurisdictions about code enforcement, we asked about the organizational placement, and how code enforcement worked in these other jurisdictions,” Levine said Jan. 3. “Respondents ranged from city managers and county administrators to planning directors and building officials. And one of the very consistent recommendations was that the efficiency and efficacy of code enforcement was significantly improved when the code enforcement officer has the ability to write citations without legislative approval.”
The council voted 4-3 on Jan. 3 to allow the code enforcement officer to issue citations. Council members Baird, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary McGann and Evan Clapper voted for the motion, while Rory Paxman, Curtis Wells and Halliday voting against.
Over the next few weeks, the planning commission and county council will begin a public hearing process to hash out definitions in the code enforcement protocol, including “refuse, debris or junk; registered vehicles; and unregistered, inoperable, or abandoned vehicles.”
Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald said it is a good step forward.
“ ... If you’ve seen the city’s code enforcement book ... it is the most ambiguous mess I’ve ever seen to draft charges out of. So we don’t want to be that,” Fitzgerald told the council Jan 3. “What we do want to have is something clear and concise with definitions attached to the citation and code section. So I think you’re headed in the right direction, making sure it’s all very tightly knit.”
Levine said a public hearing on the draft code enforcement protocol will be held during the planning commission’s regular meeting Jan. 25.
The draft protocol is available online for the public to view at grandcountyutah.net, beginning on page 95 in the council’s Jan. 3 agenda packet.