Change to little-known city codes could impact everyone

The new International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) for 2012 is currently in the process of being passed in Marietta. These codes will affect everyone in the city of Marietta in one way or another even though most people have never heard of them and have no idea what they entail. Anyone either living in town or owning property within city limits will have to adhere to these new property codes. The City Council’s intent is probably good, but will future council member share the same ideas? Will the “yet to be determined” code enforcer be as lenient with these codes as the council members intend them to be? Will the code enforcer’s job be dependent on the number of citations written? Why set into place a large amount of codes when they only want to enforce a few? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to create a set of codes that are tailored to exactly what needs to be enforced and nothing extra? These are all questions that need to be answered before setting something into place. This will undoubtedly affect many people without them even knowing until it is too late. Two more public readings of these codes are scheduled for July 18th and August 1st at Look Out Park at 7:30 pm.

There are many violations that the general public would not normally consider to be unlawful that are mandated within these new codes. Section 106.3 tells us that “any person failing to comply with a notice of violation or order ? shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor or civil infraction as determined by the local municipality? [and] deemed a strict liability offense.” A strict liability offense is defined in this code as being “an offense in which the prosecution in a legal proceeding is not required to prove criminal intent as part of its case. It is enough to prove that the defendant either did an act which was prohibited, or failed to do an act which the defendant was legally required to do.” This section also states “if the notice of violation is not complied with, the code official shall institute the appropriate proceeding at law or in equity to restrain, correct or abate such violation, or to require the removal or termination of the unlawful occupancy of the structure in violation? of this code? Any action taken by the authority having jurisdiction on such premises shall be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be a lien upon such real estate.” Section 106.4 goes on to explain that “each day that a violation continues after due notice has been served shall be deemed a separate offense.”

These codes will affect not only the exterior of an individual’s property but also the interior as well. Section 302.4 states that “all premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of [a certain height in inches that is yet to be determined]? Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation other than trees or shrub provided; however, this term shall not include cultivated flowers and gardens? Upon failure to comply with the notice of violation, any duly authorized employee of the jurisdiction or contractor hired by the jurisdiction shall be authorized to enter upon the property in violation and cut and destroy the weeds growing thereon, and the cost of such removal shall be paid by the owner or agent responsible for the property.” Section 302.8 also states that “no inoperative or unlicensed motor vehicle shall be parked, kept or stored on any premises, and no vehicle shall at any time be in a state of major disassembly, disrepair, or in the process of being stripped or dismantled, [“except as provided for in other regulations”]. Any vehicle may undergo a major overhaul or body work but has to be done in an enclosed area or structure that must be designed and approved by a code enforcer.

Swimming pools in the summer are always a very common sight. These new codes will put harsher restrictions on what is and is not deemed acceptable to public safety. In Section 303.2 “private swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, containing water more than 24 inches in depth shall be completely surrounded by a fence or barrier at least 48 inches in height above the finished ground level measured on the side of the barrier away from the pool. Gates and doors in such barriers shall be self-closing and self-latching.” Driving around Marietta you can see numerous people already in violation of this code. As stated before, these codes will also affect the interior of individual’s houses. Section 305.3 states that “all interior surfaces, including windows and doors, shall be maintained in good, clean and sanitary condition. Peeling, chipping, flaking or abraded paint shall be repaired, removed or covered. Cracked or loose plaster, decayed wood and other defective surface conditions shall be corrected.” Failure to keep the interior of your home up to these standards is also a violation and subject to misdemeanor charges.

The codes outlined above are only a few of the 40 pages worth of codes that will soon be adopted. Any claim that the enforcement of these codes is complaint based is not specified in the code enforcement policies. By passing all of these codes, the code enforcer reserves the ability to enforce ALL of these codes. Simply living in the city limits of Marietta could be probable cause for the enforcement of these codes. Is passing all of these codes really just for the safety and betterment of the community of Marietta? If you are interested in more information, these codes can be found at the Washington County Public Library or look up “International Property Maintenance Codes 2012”.

Nathan McLeish

Marietta