Mesa nuisance code being tweaked again
Fixes needed for year-old law, council told
by Gary Nelson - May. 26, 2012 06:46 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Only about a year after adopting the last sweeping changes in its nuisance code, Mesa is tweaking the law again.
The changes won't be as big this time around as in early 2011, when a new law made it illegal for residents to have more than four garage sales a year.
Some neighborhoods are still having problems with that issue, code-compliance supervisor Laura Hyneman told the City Council this week.
Hyneman, whose official title is deputy director of development and sustainability, became code-compliance supervisor about two months ago.
The nuisance code sets standards for property-maintenance, laying a legal basis for citations issued by code-compliance officers for such things as overgrown weeds, dilapidated buildings and livestock violations.
It needs tweaking already, Hyneman said, because some language is inconsistent with other city codes and gray areas have surfaced in trying to enforce it.
"The intent is to add some very specific numerical quantities, so that there is a measurable ... criteria for determination of when a violation has occurred," she said.
The new code would place interpretations in the hands of the city manager's office. It also would allow hearing officers to reduce penalties in the face of mitigating circumstances.
The definition of blight would be expanded to include "general damage to the integrity of the construction of the building or structure" and property that suffers obvious long-term neglect, Hyneman said.
There was a fairly lengthy discussion as to whether to require screening of boats, trailers and recreational vehicles parked next to private homes.
The 2011 nuisance code deleted that requirement, but it was included in the comprehensive city zoning code adopted last summer.
Hyneman showed two photos. One depicted a boat stored on an unpaved surface and covered with a sloppy tarp. The other showed an uncovered RV parked on an improved surface next to the garage.
The person with the RV, which looks far less messy than the boat, has been cited, but the boat owner has not, and Hyneman said that could be perceived as unfair.
Councilman Dave Richins, who lives in northwest Mesa, said he stores his boat at home and no neighbors have griped.
It may not be necessary or possible, he said, for Mesa to impose strict rules across the city because some neighborhoods are used to the sight of boats and trailers.
"If I wanted to live in an HOA I would live in one," Richins said. "People who have a problem with some of this stuff should probably choose to live in an HOA."
"I'm very concerned," he added, "about encroaching too far onto becoming a giant city of Mesa HOA."
Mayor Scott Smith said changes to the code should focus on "things that really make a difference" and that are based on common sense.
Councilman Alex Finter said the code staff should take a more friendly approach when they open a case.
"A kind first notice would be appreciated," Finter said. "Try and educate first."
Final action on the nuisance code revisions isn't likely until after the council's summer break, which will span most of July and August.