The Colusa County Board of Supervisors will take another stab at eliminating code violations and public nuisances within the unincorporated areas of the county.
The board on Tuesday approved the county’s amended code enforcement ordinance – a simplified plan that should allow the county to better deal with code violations, nuisances, and complaints from the public.
During the county’s public hearing on the ordinance on Feb. 20, Colusa County Community Development Director Greg Plucker said efforts to amend the county code provision had been ongoing for a number of years since 2014.
“That effort really didn’t gain a lot of traction, and ultimately stalled in the spring of 2016 because of the retirement of the former planning director,” Plucker said. “Since that time, it has come back up. We have had a couple of presentations before the board, met with the board and the code enforcement ad hoc committee, and had numerous discussion with county counsel. All of this centered on how best to update the code enforcement processes.”
Code violations and public nuisances mainly include excessive garbage, improper storage of hazardous waste, anything posing a threat to human health, safety or the environment, substandard buildings, and anything obstructing or interfering with the use, comfort or enjoyment of lives or the property of others, the ordinance states.
The new code eliminates the criminal aspect of code violations and establishes an administrative code enforcement procedure that promises better results, Plucker said. The ordinance includes a section-by-section “plain language” version so the public understands specifically what each section does.
“These procedures are unique in that they can be tailored to fit the needs of the county, and they involve such things as how citations are issued; how fines and penalties are imposed, and the actual amounts; how citations are reviewed and the due process part; and how fines and penalties are collected.”
Plucker said that through these procedures, the public would have multiple opportunities to voluntarily correct violations to avoid the imposition of fees, and multiple public hearings would be held rather than just one, starting first with a basic notice to the responsible party that a violation exists.
“The first step would be a notice to comply, and requires that the violation be cleared, as defined, and prescribes what corrective actions have to be taken, so that you are not only telling someone that there is a violation of whatever section, but here are the expectations to resolve it,” Plucker said.
The ordinance also establishes a minimum time frame for compliance, and forewarns the responsible party of the potential fines and administrative costs should they not comply.
For most violations, the responsible party will have 30 days to comply with the order, Plucker said, although only 14 days will be given for egregious violations that pose a significant threat to the public.
“Run of the mill issues will have at least 30 days,” Plucker said.
Plucker added that should the violations not be addressed, additional administrative action would eventually occur, including possible abatement by the county, which could result in a lien against the property or other collection methods for the county to recover the costs.
The ordinance also allows the county to offer addition of time if the responsible party is making progress to comply, allows for the county to withdraw the order, has a mechanism in place to notify new property owners at transfer if there is an ongoing code enforcement issue, and has a mechanism to refuse permits on the property until violations are resolved. The public also has the right to appeal the citation, which requires a timely hearing before a hearing officer.
“An administrative enforcement process is a way to handle many code enforcement issues,” Plucker summarized. “It’s a flexible approach that encourages compliance by voluntary measures. The ordinance has five opportunities for voluntary compliance after the initial contact stage.”
The amended code enforcement ordinance will go into effect in 30 days. ■