Jackson Defends Code Enforcement Office

Photo by Jennifer Peacock

JACKSON – Township Business Administrator Helene Schlegel defended the township Code Enforcement office which received criticism by residents during a July council meeting.

Schlegel said comments made by residents and quoted in The Jackson Times did not accurately reflect the performance of the Code Enforcement office. “The fact is quite contrary to that. The number of notices of violations issued by our officers is quite extensive.”

Resident Eleanor Hannum spoke during the July 25 public comment period about unsightly conditions along County Line Road. Hannum said her husband’s business office in the township moved out of the community because of conditions near a vacant Burger King.

Hannum described that area as “very blighted” and asked members of the council to examine the conditions of that area.

Schlegel said the concern of County Line Road was part and parcel to a complaint of the former Burger King building having graffiti on it.

“The management company was contacted by our Code Enforcement office prior to the meeting,” Schlegel said. She noted the graffiti had been checked on July 26 and it was found to have been removed.

“There are vacant store fronts in the shopping center and the Burger King is boarded up. This in itself is not a violation, but admittedly is not an attractive site. We do address high grass concerns and they are taken care of in a prompt manner. Signage in the right of way is removed when it pops up and this does occur from time to time,” Schlegel added.

“The grass in the median is cut by the county and monitored. When we observe an issue with the grass they are notified and they respond accordingly. Understandably, they have a schedule to adhere to so it may take a couple of days for it to be taken care of. We monitor this regularly and actually get very few complaints into our office and will continue to do so,” Schlegel said.

Jeff Riker of Walter Drive was particularly critical of code enforcement in the community during the meeting. “No one is taking ownership of this problem and it is getting out of control,” Riker said.

Schlegel said that the code enforcement office had not been contacted in reference to complaints about conditions on Walter Drive. “When residents let us know their concerns, we respond as quickly as we can. A code enforcement official has been assigned to this area to address any violations that are noted.”

Another concern brought up at the meeting regarded an increase in rental properties in the township. Resident Rae Ann Walker was among those who asked questions about the issue during the July meeting. She noted that the number of rentals in the township had increased considerably in the last two years.

Schlegel this week acknowledged the increase saying, “We do see the numbers going up, however, as a homeowner it is your right to rent your property. We have no control over this. We have the Landlord Registration which is helpful if and when issues arise and allows us to track the numbers.”

“We have 800 registered properties of which a majority, by far, are not an issue. The complaints we receive on them are more geared towards a resident being unhappy with the neighborhood changing, which many view as a quality of life issue, and they simply don’t want these renters there. Most complaints are found not to be actual violations of any code or ordinance. When there are violations, they are addressed immediately,” Schlegel said.

The administrator added that overall the numbers of complaints called into the Code Enforcement Office “have increased as well as our investigations.”

“We rely on the public to be our eyes and ears and we generate many cases in this manner. We investigate every valid complaint within a prompt time frame. We have seen a significant increase in phone calls coming in with what is termed ‘quality of life issues’ that relate to changes occurring in their neighborhood that residents are not happy with,” Schlegel said.

She added that many residents believe that we have the power to prohibit the renting of properties. “We do not, although residents still blame the township for allowing this right. We respond to each concern and phone call. With a population of approximately 55,000, we expect a few complaints.”