Town Planner Andrew Bowen issued more than 100 warning letters last year to property owners making them aware of a number of code violations and asking them to take corrective action on everything from the size of business signs to junk cars and overgrown weeds on residential property.
Many property owners have willingly taken steps to spruce up their property but others have refused to comply — and there isn’t much the town can do about it without changing its ordinance to include the ability to issue civil penalties to noncompliant property owners.
The current language in the town’s code of ordinances states that it is a misdemeanor charge for violating the town’s ordinances, which means the town would have to take the violator to District Court to pursue charges and fines. That isn’t something the town has time or financial resources to do.
Bowen and the planning board have recommended an amendment to the code enforcement ordinance that would allow the town to impose civil penalties in the form of fines for violating ordinances.
“It will enable the town to proceed with violations without filing criminal charges against somebody, which is much less harsh and less expensive,” Bowen said.
According to the amendment language, a fine would not be assessed until the alleged violator had been notified of the violation by certified mail and then fails to take corrective action within the time period outlined on the violation notice.
However, the proposed amendment also includes a “chronic violator ordinance” to address repeat offenders so Bowen doesn’t have to keep sending out the same warning letter every couple of months for violations like overgrown grass.
“If the town had to take action against the same person in the past calendar year and had to remediate that, no letter has to be sent before the violation is issued,” Bowen said.
The initial fine for a violation will be $100, and without further notice, $100 for each day the violation continues or remains unabated. Once a person has been cited, it is their responsibility to notify the town in writing that the violation has been corrected and ask for an inspection. The town has not earmarked the potential fine revenue, but any money collected from fines will go into the general fund.
Trying to tell people what they can and cannot do with their property is no easy task, but progress is being made. Bowen said he still has multiple outstanding violations on the books and hopes the proposed ordinance will help get those violations off his plate — hopefully without him having to issue a citation.
Even without issuing violation notices, some property owners haven’t appreciated Bowen’s warning letters and are not happy with the idea of having these fines put in place.
Kyle Edwards, owner of the Stompin’ Ground and other property along Soco Road, burst into the Maggie Valley board room back in May and proceeded to yell obscenities at Bowen while holding a letter in his hand. Bowen had sent Edwards a notice regarding overgrown grass on his open lot property behind Joey’s Pancake House. Edwards said he had already mowed the grass before the letter arrived in the mail.
“(Andrew) said someone complained about it but he won’t tell me who,” Edwards said to the board. “Treating the people better would help this town — not writing threatening letters … no one’s done more than I have for this town.”
Edwards was one of the hundred business owners who received a warning letter from the town last spring. He was asked to remove all the old cars and equipment sitting in the Stompin’ Ground parking lot, and he did comply.
A public hearing regarding the civil penalties amendment to the town ordinance will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Maggie Valley Town Hall. Residents and business owners will be allowed to voice their opinions during that time.
Voice your concerns
A public hearing regarding a proposed civil penalties amendment to the town code enforcement ordinance will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at Maggie Valley Town Hall. Residents and business owners will be allowed to voice their opinions during that time.