Village to step up zoning code enforcements to protect property values

by Dan Holland

The recent addition of a new full-time employee in the Richfield Village Planning and Zoning Department will allow the department to step up its efforts in zoning code enforcements and take on a number of other projects, according to department director Brian Frantz. The department welcomed new administrative assistant Kayla DeSantis on Feb. 13, allowing Amy Nauer, who previously held the position, to step into a new role as assistant director.

Issues that can fall under the zoning code for enforcement include exterior and yard maintenance, junk/debris/clutter, and unlicensed vehicles on a property.  Exterior maintenance items may include peeling paint and gutters in disrepair.

According to Frantz, the village has previously used a complaints-driven approach, but that will change.  

“In the past, we were always reactive; we would tell people if they see a violation to report it,” said Mayor Michael Wheeler. “We just didn’t have the manpower and crews to go out. But we will now be proactive on zoning issues, and if there are zoning violations, we will politely ask that they be fixed.”

Wheeler urges residents to continue reporting violations.

“Most of the folks in a neighborhood want every house to look nice, but many times people are reluctant to call us because of the drama it can cause,” he said. “But we tell them they can remain anonymous. So, even though we’re going to be proactive, if you notice something, let us know about it.”

Violations can also involve business/commercial properties, according to Wheeler.

“We may get a complaint where [a business] is parking semi-trucks in their parking lots without a permit or they’re putting out signs without first getting a sign permit and they look junky,” said Wheeler. “Often, the neighboring businesses will call us.”

Wheeler said the majority of violations in the village are corrected without any further action. However, when a property owner does not take corrective actions, legal action can be pursued through the courts.

According to Frantz, the village conducted 83 enforcement inspections last year, with two court matters regarding enforcement/compliance concluded in favor of the village.

“We try to work with people,” said Frantz. “If they’re making some headway and being responsible, we’ll work with them. But if they ignore us, then we sometimes have to involve the courts.”

“The real importance of the proactive zoning approach is to provide businesses and residents with peace of mind, so they don’t have to look at an eyesore,” said Wheeler. “It’s necessary to keep Richfield the way in which it is designed to be kept.”

“We really want people to take care of their properties, and we’re willing to work with them, but at the end of the day there are requirements, and residents need to keep up their properties,” said Frantz. “We’re trying to keep up property values.” ∞

Feature Photo: Commercial property on Brecksville Road, the main road through the community, seems to has several violations of Richfield Village’s zoning code. Photo by S. Serdinak.