Clean-up enforce tightens

With the passage of amendments to the Town of Farragut’s nuisance ordinance, officials now have a bit more leeway in addressing unsightly and unkempt residential and commercial properties.

Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to approve the ordinance updates on second reading during its regular Feb 13 meeting.

Trevor Hobbs, assistant to the Town administrator, along with Town Codes Enforcement officer Holley Marlowe, had worked for several months on the ordinance, in response to what Hobbs saw as “inconstancies between Town ordinances and the (also adopted)International Property Maintenance Code.

“The amendments address the challenges that have prevented effect enforcement and will allow for a greater degree of automation and consistency in our approach,” Hobbs stated in supporting documentation.

Several Farragut properties had come to the attention of both Hobbs and Marlowe, where junked cars or other vehicles were parked in yards, while other instances of overgrown brush or decrepit building conditions have also been reported.

While many issues are addressed within the scope of neighborhood homeowner associations, those neighborhoods without formal homeowner associations don’t have any real authority to enforce violations, Hobbs has previously noted.

Further still, several older Farragut neighborhoods don’t have HOAs that could address the issues even initially.

Farragut resident Marsha Lehman addressed BOMA, to ask about specifics regarding the ordinance, such as who would be enforcing it.

“It wasn’t clear to me if you are targeting commercial as well as residential; not clear to me what problems being addressed,” she said. “Is the Town of Farragut looking to become the enforcer?

“Yes, we have blighted properties around, most are outside of subdivisions, but we don’t have a police force. Who will enforce it?”

Lahman also asked for clarification regarding RV’s.

“They can’t be parked in the street, and can’t be lived in while parked,” she said. “What do you do when you have visitors who come in from out of town? They aren’t allowed to sleep in their RVs while they visit here?”

Hobbs pointed out that the ordinance applies to residential and commercial properties, and Marlowe would be the main individual enforcing the codes. Additionally, other Town officials will also have the same authority. Further, there is an “enforcement mechanism for each article, some of which are adopted straight from state law because those sections of state law have with them specific enforcement mechanisms.

“The one we anticipate using the most, is Article 2, Division 5. The basic process will be either our staff will identify a violation, or it will be brought to our attention by someone making a complaint; then our enforcement officer will investigate. If, indeed a condition of violation is found, we will give a certain amount of time to correct the violation. If they don’t, they can be cited to municipal court, or, if the case is appropriate, they may be cited directly to municipal court.”

There, if the judge rules a violation has occurred, “he may impose a fine of up to $50 per violation, each day a violation exits, being a separate violation.

“If we were to take action, to remediate a violation and incur costs, then we would bill the property owner for those costs.”

Mayor Ron Williams further defined “junked cars” as those “that aren’t movable, aren’t being moved or aren’t properly tagged.

“If you go to some places, you’ll see a car that’s got weeds grown up around the car, as high as the car … you’ll see junk trucks and sea dos and pieces of junk and machinery that some of us can’t even identify,” Williams added. “If it’s something that someone wants to keep, it should probably be put in a storage warehouse.”

About RVs, Williams said the ordinance would not apply to visiting family members, but the Town would be looking into instances where “folks are living out of them.

“We are not trying to be mean, but a lot of people living in our neighborhoods who see something like [those issues], they’d like it to be taken care of.”

“Sometimes, this might be a mental health issue,” added Vice Mayor Louise Povlin. “And it is an opportunity for us to start connecting with issues we are seeing in our neighborhoods.

“We are not trying to be aggressive … but we are trying to find out if it is something they are capable of taking care of, and they aren’t, or if they are not capable of taking care of it, how do we get this problem solved?”

While the ordinance contains many individual amendments to the language of the chapter, Hobb said, “it is important to note that the Town of Farragut has had an enforcement program for many years, based on the International Property Maintenance Code, from which much of the language of Article 2 is adopted. Articles 3 and 4 are direct adoptions of other elements of State Law, some of which were adopted by the Town for several years ago.”