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Gwinnett cities improve quality of life through code enforcement

While the approaches to code enforcement may not be the same and the units that handle enforcement may look very different, the most common code violations across Gwinnett’s cities are relatively similar.

Tall grass and weeds. Trash or debris on a property. Inoperable vehicles. These are violations that draw out code enforcement officers across the county most often. The Daily Post takes a look at each city’s code enforcement unit and some of their statistics that stood out for 2013.

Berkeley Lake

This Gwinnett city employs a part-time code enforcement officer. From Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, the city issued 102 notices of violation and just two citations. The three most common violations were for illegal signs, property maintenance and dead or dangerous tree removal.

Buford

Buford’s code enforcement unit consists of one part-time employee. On average, about 130 to 135 cases go to court each year.

“We would prefer them, when they come to court it’s fixed and the judge dismisses it,” said Dan Branch, the city’s public safety director. “That’s a win for them and a win for us.”

Branch said the top three issues code enforcement deals with are building and property maintenance, prohibited banners and signs and open storage.

“The ultimate goal of code enforcement is compliance. Period.” — Dan Branch, Buford’s public safety director

Dacula

The Dacula Marshal’s Office is responsible for code enforcement inside the city of Dacula. The office consists of two employees, Marshal Steve Cline and Marshal Reed Miller. Both are certified police officers and have arrest powers within the city.

“We enforce property maintenance, business and alcohol licensing violations, and a variety of other ordinances,” Cline said. “We have a building inspector that does some enforcement and a planner that also does some environmental and zoning violations.”

From Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, the Dacula Marshal’s Office issued 335 notices of violation and 70 citations. Of those, the highest numbers wer for the following:

• Grass/vegetation — 104 notices of violation and six citations

• Junk vehicles — 39 notices of violation and three citations

• Outdoor storage — 27 notices of violation and four citations

Duluth

Duluth’s code enforcement unit has one officer, Shelley Shepphard, who handles all violations within the city’s limits. The city’s top four violations are cleanliness of premises and outdoor storage, tall grass and weeds, junk or inoperable vehicles and prohibited signs and banners.

Of the 613 cases the department has handled from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, the city issued 41 total citations. Among those were the following:

• Cleanliness of premises and outdoor storage — 205 cases with 6 citations issued

• Grass and weeds — 83 cases with 7 citations issued

• Junk or inoperable vehicles — 69 cases with 8 citations issued

• Prohibited signs and banners — 48 cases with 12 citations issued

Grayson

The city of Grayson has a single employee, Jim Moff, who handles code enforcement. From Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, Moff issued just 10 mailed notices of violation. Most of what he does is verbal communication with the property owner or tenant.

Moff said the violations he sees most are tall grass and weeds and parking violations.

“We do a very good job of enforcing this,” he said.

Lawrenceville

Lawrenceville’s Quality of Life Unit consists of four officers. From Jan. 1 through Nov. 1, the unit issued 2,294 notices of violation and 38 citations. The three most common property maintenance violations the unit sees are tall grass, outdoor storage and exterior surface maintenance.

Lilburn

Like many other cities in Gwinnett, Lilburn’s code enforcement unit’s No. 1 violation is tall grass and weeds. But that violation, city planner and code enforcement supervisor Alex Mitchem said, is seasonal, of course.

“That obviously tapers off as it gets into the cold months,” he said.

The No. 2 violation the city of Lilburn sees is illegal signs.

The city’s code enforcement unit, which falls under the planning and zoning department, consists of three officers and the city has had to add staff over the past couple years to keep up with complaints.

“We’re a complaint driven staff,” Mitchem said. “We really respond to citizen complaints.”

POSSIBLE PULLQUOTE

“We take more of a neighborly approach. We’re trying to get compliance by doing notices. We feel like it’s more effective this way. We’re just trying to be neighborly.” — Alex Mitchem, Lilburn city planner

Norcross

From Jan. 1 through Nov. 21, the city of Norcross handled 3,627 code enforcement cases and issued 30 citations. The department has one supervisor who is also an active officer in the field, and two full-time code enforcement officers.

All three of the city’s most common violations fall under the umbrella of property maintenance. They are:

In-operative vehicles (this includes but not limited to vehicles without proper license/current tag attached, wrecked, dismantled, junk, flat tires.

• Outdoor storage — The city does not allow outdoor storage excluding residential lawn maintenance equipment

• Trash and debris — This includes not only everyday household trash but can include evictions, old/broken furniture, car parts, construction materials, carpet, household appliances and other numerous types of items

• Yard maintenance and tall grass and weeds — This type of violation is very high on the list but tends to be a seasonal issue

Peachtree Corners

From Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, Peachtree Corners’ Code Enforcement issued 220 notices of violation.

The city of then began issuing citations in August, when its courts system came online. Since that time, the city has issued 16 summons for individuals to appear in court. The most common violations are signage, property maintenance and businesses operating without a license.

Snellville

The city of Snellville has two staff members who spend part of their time enforcing quality of life codes — John Dennis, who also serves as the zoning administrator, and Jason Thompson, who is Snellville’s city planner.

Through Dec. 31, Dennis and Thompson investigated 664 complaints from residents regarding code violations. Of those, just 46 citations were issued.

“We spend a lot of time working with people to avoid citations,” said Jon Davis, director of planning and development. “We’re trying to solve a problem.”

POSSIBLE PULLQUOTE

“You really kind of have to be the bad guy, in a way, a lot of times. I mean, you have to tell people, which you shouldn’t have to in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to tell people to cut their grass.” — Jason Thompson, Snellville city planner

Sugar Hill

From Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, the city of Sugar Hill’s code enforcement unit issued 2,527 notices of violation and 61 citations. The city’s top violations include:

• Violations of Municipal Code Section 14-313. Grass Weeds and Uncultivated Vegetation

• Violations of Municipal Code Section 50-1. Nuisances

• Violations of Municipal Code Section 14-314. Open and Outdoor Storage

The city employs two code enforcement officers and the unit falls under the scope of the planning and development department.

Suwanee

The city of Suwanee issued 219 notices of violation between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31. There are currently two employees who perform code enforcement duties, as well as sign enforcement and building inspections.

During that same time period, the city issued the following citations for the most common code violations:

• Tall grass/weeds — 125

• Outside storage — 30

• Trash/debris on property — 25

• Inoperable vehicles — 17