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Scofflaws, Beware: Cinnaminson Code Crackdown Coming

Officials plan to target code violators with increase enforcement efforts. But who should lead efforts? And how much will it cost?

 

Brush left curbside for weeks. Trashcans languishing in the road for days. Waist-high grass and inoperable clunkers parked on neighborhood streets. Township committee members have seen it all around Cinnaminson and they’re ready to take a hard line against such code violations.

Soon it may be possible for neighbors to more easily report violations as well, helping identify and squash minor issues before they became major neighborhood headaches. Questions remain though: Who should oversee code enforcement? Will a reporting system (and, presumably, annoyed neighbors) overwhelm township employees? How much will a reporting system cost?

While code enforcement isn’t the most exciting undertaking, Cinnaminson officials say it will help protect the town’s property values.

“I think it’s really important,” Committeewoman Kathy Fitzpatrick. “I don’t want to be heavy-handed in our approach, but I certainly feel like it’s important that our code enforcement officer address the problems … so that we can maintain our image as a good family community.

“It all ties together. If someone maintains their property, it might encourage their neighbors to maintain their property.”

It’s time for Cinnaminson to crack down, agreed Committeeman Ben Young, who works closely with public works and has led efforts to get residents in compliance with brush rules. Committee members said brush and leaf violations are perhaps the most common complaint they receive.

“(Residents) have had 18 months of education. We’re going to start writing tickets,” Young said. “We’ve been nice, we’ve been cooperative … and if there are situations when a discussion will fix a problem, we should do that. But there are times when a discussion doesn’t work.”

Needed: manager and ground troops

Property maintenance issues have swelled as the economy has dropped, leading to more vacant homes and more code violations, Deputy Mayor Anthony Minniti noted.

Code violations are already ticking up and will continue to with more focus on enforcement. Any reporting system that allows online complaints could create a glut of investigations for the township to undertake. So, committee needs to figure out how to best handle code enforcements.

Committee discussed that at its Nov. 12 meeting as part of a set of recommendations on streamlining township functions. Township administrator Frank Locantore recommended committee designate a single person in charge of overseeing all code violations, from investigating initial reports to testifying at court cases to the conclusion.

Currently, zoning officer John Marshall also handles code enforcement, a change made when his position converted to full-time. Committee needs to decide whether Marshall should manage code enforcement oversight or whether to hire a dedicated part-time enforcement officer and revert the zoning officer to part-time as well.

Either way, Locantore said, “I would recommend that all code enforcement activities flow through one person. … You have one person following through with noticing, following through with court, making sure that the case has been heard and the problems addressed.” It avoids a mixed message, he added.

Cinnaminson also needs to train its entire workforce, especially employees out and about in town during the day, to recognize and report violations, Minniti said.

“By making that part of the culture of what they do, it’s a huge step forward,” he said.

Finding a reporting mechanism

No matter who is in charge or reporting problems, Cinnaminson doesn’t have the capacity to follow through on increased code enforcement right now, Committeeman John Rooney said. The town’s pen-and-paper approach to logging violations isn’t efficient or detailed enough, he added.

“We don’t have the infrastructure,” Rooney said. “A software solution enables the hybrid solution to work. The hybrid solution is that we want all employees to look for (violations) but we want to give them a vehicle to easily report it, so it’s a manageable work flow.”

Reporting software runs from free (but not recommended, Rooney said) programs installed on the town’s website to a $10,000 per year system. Committee directed Locantore to investigate options for consider at a future meeting.

Are you itching to report a code violations in your neighborhood? Tell us in the comments. And don’t forget to follow Patch on Facebook and Twitter.

John November 17, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I guess its not in the budget for a new Vaccuum leaf pick up truck....but we can over look a new car and say ooooppppsssss I did not see it....oh well.....I still have several trees with leaves on them and they will not fall now....some one better check the calendar.....
Donkey Kong November 17, 2012 at 11:09 PM
@Christina: After seeing Mr. O'Connor's comments above, you might want to think and investigate a little more before you print anything those bunch of liars tell you. I'm not sure which one told you that, but I wouldnt put my trust in anything that comes out of any of their mouths. How many times do people have to ask you to "investigate" before you print. And by investigation, it means BOTH sides of a story and perhaps a little background. Or is this kind of like the investigation you claimed to be working on with the new CFO? You have again proven your loyalty to the Captain and his Team.
marlowe5227 November 17, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Patchers, Any comment with false or misleading information will be deleted. If not, they're gone. Any problems? Email me at christina.paciolla@patch.com.
noyb November 18, 2012 at 12:01 AM
the problem here is the threats made about not following the "rules". I have personally been working 16 hr shifts since the storm. I was off last saturday so i could go to a friends wedding. Today was my first day not working from storm related issues, so today I did my leaves. they are out front ready to be picked up unfortunately I missed the pick up last week I was just a tad busy. Now I have to hear about the fines im going to get for putting them out at the wrong date and how ugly it looks. At least I have enough pride in my property to clean it up. I say hand out my fine and they can watch me never pay it. Sue me. I'd rather rent a dump truck and fill it with my leaves, then dump the entire thing in the middle of the parking lot of the municipal building. BTW, John Marshal is a %@$%@&#@! always has been and will be until the day he dies.
Christina Paciolla November 18, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Due to the excessive use of profanity, which is against our terms of service, this comment section has been shut down. Any issues? E-mail christina.paciolla@patch.com.

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