Violators beware: Rotterdam’s code enforcers are getting their ticket books ready.
The department that has traditionally addressed code violators via longhand letters will soon start issuing citations summoning to court those violators who do not heed verbal warnings from the department’s three officers. Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the written citations should help bring some of the town’s persistently derelict properties into compliance with local laws.
“Our code enforcement people have not had the devices to effectively enforce the law,” he said. “They’re doing everything in long form and by letter.”
About half the time, property owners comply. But in other cases, Buffardi said, nothing is done at all and the violations continue unpunished.
For example, Buffardi spotted several homes that still had code enforcement notices on town letterhead bearing the names of supervisors that haven’t been in office for years. In one instance, he found a code enforcement notice with the name of Joseph Signore, who hasn’t been supervisor in more than a decade.
Town Attorney Kate McGuirl said the state Department of State now offers sample forms that municipalities can use to enforce the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code along with other local laws. She said these resources are an excellent tool for a town to use to improve compliance to local codes — something that has fallen by the wayside in Rotterdam during past administrations.
“Residents have been frustrated and angered by abandoned houses, cars, piles of tires and the general disrepair of a small group of buildings in the town,” she said. “It detracts from residents’ hard work to keep their own homes up to code and continue to make improvements to their neighborhoods.”
In the near future, violators will be formally apprised of the code they are breaking and given time to take corrective action. If an adequate remedy is not reached, the violator will be handed an appearance ticket containing the area of the state law or town code violated.
This procedural change should give Rotterdam better leverage to prosecute cases in town court, much in the same way traffic violations are adjudicated. As a result, the town could also see additional revenue from cases that result in a fine.
McGuirl is also reviewing parts of the local codes at Buffardi’s request to ensure penalties imposed by the town are adequate. In some instances, the penalties codified more than four decades ago have remained unchanged.
“Portions of the code, like dog licensing, have no penalty,” she said. “Other parts of the code, like the cats ordinance, are practically impossible to enforce because of the town’s limited resources.”