Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 121 – Nuisance Enforcement

A good deal has been written about the community workshop last week on the County Nuisance Ordinance, and I'll try not to repeat much of it here. One thing, however, did stand out for me in addition to the good attendance and the active participation, particularly by the Realtor community, but by the community at large as well, and that was how much of what people here consider nuisances could be made better by enforcing existing laws and codes.


The problem with enforcement of this type of non-life threatening situations is that the Sheriff, the County Development Agency, and others who are charged with enforcing the ordinances just can't be everywhere at once, so enforcement requires a partnership between those offended or annoyed by the nuisance and the agencies that will enforce the laws.


Maybe because I cleared a foot of snow from my driveway this morning and am looking at clearing it again, the first thing that comes to mind is enforcement of the winter off-street parking regulations. I grew up in upstate New York and I've lived in Vermont, so I'm no stranger to snow and lots of it, and I will say unequivocally that we have the best road clearing and snow removal I've ever seen. The County plow guys are quick, hard-working, and enormously considerate of driveways and the like. When people leave their cars in the street and snow comes, the plow guys' job becomes exponentially harder – they have to be careful not to damage the cars and they have to plow around them, all of which takes time and extra effort. It used to be illegal to have cars on the street in winter, period. Then in what I imagine was an effort to be accommodating, Incline instituted a red-yellow-green system to allow street parking when there was no danger of snow and a kind of "take your chances" system when the snow was on the ay but had not arrived. Apparently this system afforded more freedom than some people could handle, and they took it as license to leave their cars out all the time.


The Sheriff can't find these scofflaws if neighbors don't report them. If we do report them, it's a rather stiff ticket for them, so as good neighbors we try to give them some leeway, but if we do that it's not the Sheriff's fault if the law isn't being enforced, it's ours.


Then there is the issue of bears and garbage. It's illegal to put containers that are not bear-proof out before 5 am on the day of the garbage pickup. Again, who's going to enforce this if it's not reported by those directly affected, the neighbors?


A lot of people at the workshop were concerned about lighting – two specific problems are backlighted signs (any sign where the light shines through the sign rather than being beamed onto it) and outdoor lighting that beams up as well as down. Another concern expressed was that of lights illegally mounted on trees rather than poles. I believe that both the County and TRPA have regulations about this, but they don't have the personnel to patrol it – they respond to complaints.


I could go on – how many of us have complained about the old Orbit station, compared to how many of us have filed complaints about that eyesore with the County? – but my point is this: if we take a "let George do it" attitude toward nuisance enforcement, no amount of new, more specific, ordinances is going to make any difference. If we care about how our community looks and feels, then we as residents are going to have to partner with the County, the Sheriff, the Fire District, and yes, even TRPA to have the codes, ordinances and regulations enforced. Make a call, go to the appropriate website, and if you don't know who to complain to either find out or complain to all of them.

No comments: