Dalton cracks down on property code violators

Dalton cracks down on property code violators

August 18th, 2009 by Kelly Jackson in Georgia

DALTON, Ga. -- To keep rental homes from turning into messy eyesores, the City Council may take aim at the property owners, not the renters.

During discussion at a council meeting Monday, an idea was brought up to require landlords to register rental properties with the city, making it easier to track the landlords down should the property's appearance not be kept up.

Elements of property maintenance code:

* Sanitation: Property shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition

* Weeds: Plant growth, including grass, must not exceed 12 inches

* Motor vehicles: No inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicles shall be on premises, also no vehicles in major disassembly

* Garbage: Property shall be free from accumulation of rubbish or garbage

* Farm Animals: Unlawful to keep livestock in the city

* Garbage cans: Residents can't put garbage cans on street before 5 p.m. the day before collection and must remove by midnight after service

* Signs: Prohibited in city streets or rights of way, utility or telephone poles and traffic control devices

* Commercial vehicles: Prohibited in residential districts (R-1 or R-1A)

* Holiday lights: Cannot exceed 90 days

Source: Bruce Frazier, public relations specialist Dalton Police Department

Mayor David Pennington said, according to city code enforcement officer Alan Parrish, many violations occur in rentals.

"We're having a difficult time with all these renters as far as chasing them all down," Mr. Pennington said in a phone call Monday before the meeting.

Realtor Octavio Perez said the city can use property information on the county's Web site to send letters to property owners without having to create the ordinance.

Alderman Charlie Bethel said the city now delivers warnings and citations to properties by hand, but officials instead may be able to mail notices.

Realtor Carolyn Roan told the council that it should consider increasing time and manpower spent on enforcement rather than creating a new law.

"The underlying issue is we've got folks in, primarily, single-family residential areas who are saying this (code enforcement) is a concern," said Mr. Bethel. "If you don't change anything, the likelihood that you are going to get a different result, and a better result, is low."

Mr. Bethel said the city will continue to explore solutions.

At the same meeting, Dalton Police Chief Jason Parker said his department began helping Mr. Parrish with code enforcement this month. He said they had issued about 30 warnings, but so far had not issued any citations.

Two officers with the department's situation response unit are working on code enforcement but only a few hours at a time, Chief Parker said after the meeting.

"Ideally, the notion will catch hold and people will be proactive about how they take care of their property," he said. "Certainly these are not heinous crimes, but they do detract from the quality of life and they do present health issues, and they do present safety issues."

Mr. Bethel said the city still plans to merge its building department, including code enforcement, with the Whitfield County's department, but the county has not yet approved the agreement.