Commissioners propose zoning enforcement changes

Published 8:25 pm Thursday, September 29, 2011

Public hearing Monday, Oct. 3
After discovering some deficiencies in Polk County’s zoning ordinance relating to enforcement of violations, the Polk County Board of Commissioners is now considering amendments.
Commissioners met Monday, Sept. 19, and reviewed the draft changes approved by the Polk County Planning Board. The county scheduled a public hearing on the changes for Monday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.
County attorney Michael Egan said the changes will modernize the county’s enforcement ordinance as the county currently has handicaps in trying to deal with some violations.
Violations addressed in this section of the ordinance involve activities such as development, site preparation, demolition, construction, remodeling and other land improvement activities. The draft changes specify what is a violation, which was omitted from the county’s current ordinance.
The draft changes will also de-criminalize violations to the county’s ordinance, according to Egan. The current ordinance does not allow civil penalties; rather, the county has to go to the district attorney, who decides whether or not to file criminal charges for violations. If charges are filed, violators currently could receive a $50 fine, money that is not returned to the county.
The draft changes include sending a number of notices prior to sending a notice of violation. The first failure to comply violation is a $50 fine and subsequent violations escalate to $500.
“We’re looking for compliance, not to convict anyone of a crime,” Egan said.
The amendments also give explicit authorization to the zoning administrator for inspection and enforcement.
Egan said the county’s current ordinance is difficult to enforce and it doesn’t make good fiscal sense to have the district attorney handle violations.
“The ordinance is outdated,” Egan said. “I think it was probably created in the 1970s.”
Although the ordinance has been amended since its creation, Egan said he doesn’t think it has been addressed in quite a while.
Polk County’s zoning ordinance is only enforceable in zoned townships. All Polk townships are zoned except Coopers Gap and White Oak.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox