Crackdown begins on properties with trash and weeds
City mass mails code-violation reminders
by Edythe Jensen - Apr. 2, 2012 10:07 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Downtown Chandler is bustling, but some neighborhoods a short trek from popular restaurants, tree-lined walkways and art-enhanced landscapes are battling blight.
Northeast of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard, well-maintained historic homes are beside others with weeds, trash and boarded-up windows.
David Mascarenas, a 56-year-old Chandler native, who grew up in the area, said he is frustrated by growing numbers of neighbors who park vehicles in front yards, often on top of dirt where lawns once grew.
"I'm not looking for the tyranny of an HOA, [He wants the tyranny of jackbooted government messy yard cops which are far worse!!!!] just some consistencies on the basic things, like not allowing eyesores," he said.
Malcolm Hankins, the city's neighborhood-preservation manager since January, said the process takes time and his office recently has targeted several areas of the city for mass mailings followed by code-inspector visits. Among the areas is the historic Silk Stocking neighborhood south of Mascarenas' Lundquist Manor subdivision.
Last month the city mailed 465 notices to every address between Chandler Boulevard and Galveston Street, Arizona Avenue and Hamilton Street, requesting that recipients "assess your property and make improvements if needed." If violations are not corrected, owners or occupants can receive violation notices and fines, the mailing said.
The notice asks owners or occupants to remove weeds, improve dirt yards with gravel or grass, keep inoperable vehicles out of public view, remove debris and maintain exteriors of homes and fences.
"We are trying to be systematic in our approach, letting residents know we're coming through and these are the things we look at," Hankins said.
The process takes time and the first contact can be an informal request to clean or fix. If there is no improvement, an inspector issues a violation notice and gives the property owner time to remedy the problem. If the owner does not comply, citations and fines can follow.
"There are a lot of little steps in any given case," Hankins said. "Some people ask for more time and we grant extensions. We don't use a cookie-cutter approach. The priority is trying to contact the property owner."
Notices went out this year to three other areas: west of Chandler Fashion Center, south of downtown and north of Ray Road in east Chandler.
Mary Lou Perkins, a longtime resident, who last year helped gain the Silk Stocking neighborhood's inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, received a city letter and is pleased with Hankins' comprehensive approach.
"We've seen some improvements since he sent out those letters," Perkins said. "The man across the street had his front porch full of stuff. . . . He put it in the backyard where nobody can see it."
Speculation during the real-estate boom, foreclosures, rentals and multiple families living in one home have contributed to Perkins' neighborhood's problems. Committed neighbors are doing what they can to make things better, she said. She is working with a group that is staging an April 21 "Live, Love" effort, in which volunteers help residents with landscaping and painting.
Mascarenas said his neighborhood a few locks north isn't getting the attention it needs. It was not among the areas that received mailed notices.
"You have a set of rules and you can't pick and choose who you allow to break them. . . . [That is 100 percent BS!!! The messy yard laws are selectively enforced and the messy yard cops selectively pick which people to selectively enforce the laws against!] I'm sure Jay (Mayor Jay Tibshraeny) doesn't have neighbors parking their cars on the front lawn," Mascarenas said.
Mascarenas recently e-mailed addresses and photos showing parking violations to city-code offices and the mayor, whom Mascarenas said is a former Chandler High classmate. Hankins said most of the photos are in the area that he is now targeting and will be examined by his inspectors in the coming weeks.
A longtime elementary school teacher, Mascarenas is loyal to his hometown. He passed up chances to move even when he was teaching in Buckeye, commuting 120 miles a day.
"I grew up here. My parents grew up here. My kids grew up here. I like Chandler," Mascarenas said.
Chandler code notice
Mailed to residents whose neighborhoods have been targeted for property-maintenance inspections and advises them make improvements.
Yard maintenance: Remove weeds; grass higher than six inches; uncultivated, dead or dry plant growth.
Vehicles: Make sure all vehicles are operable with current registration and parked on an improved surface.
Outside storage: Remove debris and outside storage of personal property that is visible from outside the property boundary.
Exterior surfaces: Windows, roofs, structures and fences must be sound and without deteriorated surfaces. City mass mails code-violation reminders