Canton code enforcement changes

By DeeAnna Haney | Jul 22, 2013
Photo by: Donated

Failing to mow the grass or take out the garbage could be a little more costly for Canton residents after a recent decision made by the board of aldermen.

In the past, ordinance violations such as repeated failure to mow the lawn were enforced through criminal court procedure. The town would issue a notice of violation which spelled out a certain number of days the person had to correct the violation. If the matter was not addressed, a police officer would write a citation ordering the violator to appear in criminal district court.

But Canton leaders found that, though those charges were not being ignored by the court system, they were given less priority.

“It’s cumbersome on the judicial system,” said Canton Police Chief Bryan Whitner.

In response, the board decided to adopt an ordinance imposing civil penalties for violation of certain other ordinances.

Residents will still receive notification from the town if they violate an ordinance and they will still be notified of a time frame to address the problem. If the issue is not addressed at the expiration of the time frame, a citation will be issued effective that day, which would subject the violator to a civil penalty. The violator will be charged $50 each day that the problem is not addressed.

“Each day thereafter that the problem goes uncorrected, that is a separate offense,” Matthews said. “So if you were told to mow your grass and you had 14 days to do so, and you were given a citation and waited five more days, you could accrue $250 worth of fines.”

And if the situation requires the town to take action, such as having town crews mow the grass, the violator could assess that cost as well. Continued failure to address the problem could still result in criminal charges or a lien being placed on the property.

If the problem is addressed within the time period, however, there will be no penalty.

“The overall purpose and goal is to have people correct the issues in a timely manner. It’s not to make money, it’s a motivational tool to correct nonconforming nuisance violations,” said Jason Burrell, assistant town manager.

The most common violation is when residents allow their grass to grow too high, but there are several other ordinances that could cost residents money if violated and not corrected in a timely manner. Those include leaving abandoned or junk motor vehicles on property, obstructing sidewalks or streets, leaving grass cutting on public streets, use and cleanliness of property, obstructing water lines and more.

There are some residents who regularly allow their grass to grow too high or accumulate garbage in their yards, and have received multiple warnings from the town. Board members have discussed finding a way to handle habitual offenders, but no decision has been made yet.

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