Metro Council proposes classes for code offenders

| June 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

Macaela Bennett, mbennett@tennessean.com

http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2015/05/25/council-proposes-classes-code-offenders/27831279/

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Think of it as traffic school for piling trash in your yard or neglecting to mow the lawn for many months.

Metro council passed a proposal sponsored by council members Fabian Bedne and Karen Johnson on first reading Tuesday that would open a “Codes Violator School” similar to the format of traffic violation classes.

“It’s a constant struggle to have code issues addressed,” Johnson said. “We came to the conclusion that we have got to do something because the process as is is not responsive and not working.”

Right now when a code violation is reported, the code inspector gives the homeowner 30 days to fix the issue and those who don’t meet that deadline are given a citation and a court date. Afterward, the judge determines the violator’s penalty.

“This (class) is another tool the judge can use if he feels that it’s the best way to deal with the issue,” Bedne said. “I expect them to use this tool in a surgical way and not just throw it at everyone.”

According to Bedne and Johnson, the current system leaves many issues unresolved as some violators often don’t make an effort to comply or show up for their court dates.

For instance, Johnson said she regularly passes a house that has unresolved violations for at least three years.

“When I called a neighbor to ask about it (the problem house), he said he had given up because he doesn’t understand why something clearly presenting a safety issue to him and other neighbors takes so long to get resolved,” Johnson said.

And this is not an isolated incident, she said.

Bedne said he believes many residents do not understand that codes are in place to protect everyone’s safety. He said this school would induce higher compliance by providing students an understanding of the reason for the city’s standards.

“Trash piled in a yard is not just aesthetically displeasing, it’s a health issue. It attracts vermin that can spread to neighbors’ homes,” Bedne said. “This is an opportunity for someone who is not understanding why codes are important to them, their neighbors and the city.”

Both council members say their proposal has been well received by their constituents and the rest of council.

“I’ve already had people emailing and calling me saying it is a good idea,” Johnson said. “Ultimately what we want to accomplish is a reduction of property issues that cause safety problems, educate people why it is important to keep their property safe and reduce the number of things council members have to follow up on.”

The proposal must pass through two more readings before becoming law. If the Metro council approves the class, each would cost around $90 at the student’s expense.

Reach Macaela Bennett at 615-259-8089 and on Twitter @Macaela_.

 

Messy Yard? Tall Grass? A Proposed Nashville Law Could

Send You To Code-Violator School

By Allie Gross

http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/messy-yard-tall-grass-proposed-nashville-law-could-send-you-code-violator-school

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Some Metro Council members think Nashville needs a new way to pressure people who won’t comply with city codes. A proposal up for its first vote tonight calls for the city to establish a “codes offender school” for repeat violators of property standards.

Co-sponsor Fabian Bedne says it could help some stubborn offenders understand how their violations affect the safety of others.

“Having lots of debris in your yard, for example, draws vermin, which then goes to the neighbor’s house. So if you keep your house full of trash and then there are rats in your house that creates a toxic environment for you and also for your neighbor,” Bedne said.

Right now, codes violators are given a warning with 30 days to fix the problem, followed by a citation and a court hearing. Co-sponsor Karen Johnson said that in some cases, the current penalties available to judges aren’t enough to enforce the codes. The proposed “codes offender school” offers judges an additional tool.

“It’s been a revolving door for repeat offenders,” Johnson said. “They’ll say they’re going to correct an issue, and then it’s an issue again a week later.”

Bedne says some landlords even work the fines into their budgets rather than comply.

“Many times people just don’t understand why codes are there,” he said. “They think it’s an arbitrary guideline set up by some crazy bureaucrat. But in reality, codes are there to protect people.”

Bedne added that his vision would look similar to traffic school, but for people who’ve gotten codes violations instead of speeding tickets. Offenders would also have to pay to attend.

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