With all the negative publicity that the County Council and County government have subjected themselves to over the past few years, we were surprised to see the County’s recent attempt to grant themselves access onto your property in the name of code enforcement.
At the Aug. 7, 2018 regular session of County Council, an ordinance was proposed under the misdirecting title ‘Addressing and Road Naming’. As one reads through it, it sounds like it mostly deals with how the County wants to name and number roads. According to the ordinance, houses less than 50 feet from the street may affix number to their house. Those more than 50 feet need to have the numbers painted on the curb. The rationale is that it helps Emergency Services (police, fire) find your home in the event of an emergency.
It all sounds well and good, until you get into the specifics. That is where you find that the County grants itself access onto your private property under the guise of checking your house numbering. Who performs this ‘checking’? The same folks who enforce the Nuisance Ordinance, the Community Development Department, or the CDD. Isn’t it convenient that the same folks that cite you for chipping paint, cardboard and 18-inch grass, now want an ordinance that allows them close access to the front of your house, in the name of measuring the size of your house numbers? Not the police. Not the Fire Department. Not someone who is going to objectively tell you how you can help them, but a department that wants to cite and fine you for non-compliance.
In order to do that, they’ve included paragraph E, under section 34-104, Authority to Enter. This gives the County Code Enforcers the authority to come onto your property and measure the numbers used to identify your house on a street. Believe us, if they can’t see the numbers from the street, they don’t need to be on your front porch measuring the numbers to know that they are too small. Perhaps not seeing numbers is enough cause to come to your front door and look for them. And now that they are on your porch, maybe they can look more closely for Nuisance violations. Maybe they can look in your windows for hoarding.
But wait. What if an older home has one of those historic house number signs made by the Zia Company that shows house and street on it? Those numbers are 3 inches high. It does not meet the requirements of the new ordinance, 4 inches tall. But it would be grandfathered in, right? Not the way the ordinance is written. Section 34-102, Applicability, says that ‘This Article shall apply to all roads, areas, and real property within the County’s jurisdiction’. There were no exclusions that we saw.
Another disturbing part of the ordinance is in the definitions. There is a definition of the Addresser (Boss Code Enforcer), whereby ‘The Addresser shall have authority to develop and promulgate additional guidelines and rules pertaining to addressing and road naming and shall have the authority to assign Addresses to new and/or existing locations.’ If we’re reading this correctly, the County Government wants the County Council to allow them to create a code enforcer that can make up enforceable rules without ever having to get Council’s approval on them. That is the definition of Out of Control.
Ironically, this is the same session where they selected the board for the newly created Community Development Advisory Board. You know. The one where appointed members can listen to their fellow citizens complain about being unfairly cited by the County’s Nuisance Ordinance Code Enforcers.
Get ready for the next level of code enforcement, if your County Council passes this one.