by Dan Holland
With summertime here and lawn maintenance season in full swing, residents may sometimes identify and report a home or business property not being kept up to code. These concerns are brought to the attention of Richfield officials who investigate the occurrences.
According to Brian Frantz, planning and zoning director for Richfield Village, once a complaint is lodged, his department investigates and determines a course of action. The process is complaint driven, as the village does not proactively seek out violations, and residents filing complaints can remain anonymous, he added.
“We get our share of concerns – whether it’s tall grass or deteriorating structures – residents find us and let us know about it,” said Frantz. “We go out and do an inspection, and if the complaint is valid and the findings are there, then we issue a violation letter that provides some time to abate the nuisance. We then log it into our system and set up a bit of an automated system to get it entered into our journal and calendar to make sure we don’t miss a re-inspection.”
There were 180 enforcements last year in the village, according to Frantz. General yard maintenance, junk/debris and unlicensed vehicles on a property are the top three types of complaints.
Compliance periods vary depending on the type, said Frantz. An overgrown lawn needs to be cut within five days of notification; if found not in compliance, the village will send a contractor to do the work. Once the village pays the bill, it certifies the funds to the property tax duplicate for which the property owner is assessed.
“Ultimately, if compliance isn’t achieved and the property owner isn’t working with us to abate, we can refer the matter to the courts for action,” said Frantz.
Richfield Township Zoning Inspector Patricia Ryan said in the year that she has served in that position, she has only received a handful of nuisance complaints, with the type varying widely. She attributes the low number of complaints in part to well-maintained properties with large lots in the township, many heavily wooded with deep front and rear setbacks.
According to Ryan, drive-by inspections of properties are done both to confirm a violation and also to confirm resolution. Once a violation letter is issued, homeowners typically have 30 days to correct the violation, but the zoning inspector can lengthen the period depending on circumstances. Violations not corrected within the specified time can be referred to the Summit County prosecutor for further action if necessary. Most complaints are resolved with a letter stating the violation, she added.
Responding to and enforcing violations is an important aspect in maintaining the quality of life in the community, according to Frantz.
“I think property maintenance is very important; staying on top of it, and making sure properties look good and comply with the code; it all helps to maintain property values and quality of life,” he said. “All of that, amongst other things, helps to make Richfield a great place to locate a business and to live. Without property enforcement and some mechanism to ensure the standard of living is achieved, I think property values can begin to decline.”
For specific information on exterior property maintenance codes in Richfield Village, visit codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/richfield/latest/richfield_oh/0-0-0-19392#JD_1307. ∞