Code enforcement no easy task in Chandler | News | chandlernews … – Chandler Arizonan

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Clear skies. Low 67F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: October 14, 2023 @ 11:02 pm
City of Chandler code enforcers have been trying to get the house at 792 N. Alma School to make changes so it will be in compliance with city codes for a while. In addition to overgrown vegetation, the owner is using the front patio and driveway for storage. (Ken Sain/Managing Editor)

City of Chandler code enforcers have been trying to get the house at 792 N. Alma School to make changes so it will be in compliance with city codes for a while. In addition to overgrown vegetation, the owner is using the front patio and driveway for storage. (Ken Sain/Managing Editor)
Trying to enforce city codes in a property rights state like Arizona is not always easy, officials told the Chandler City Council during a work session on Aug. 17.
“The fact that my staff can just say ‘792,’ and I know exactly what property they’re talking about, that says there’s a problem,” said Leah Powell, the city’s neighborhood resources director. 
The property in question is at 792 N. Alma School, and it’s one of two examples brought up during the meeting of long-term problem properties. The other is near Harrison and Ivanhoe.
“The other one that I know that we’ve talked about on Harrison, we’re in the similar situation where they have flat out said, ‘We’re not going to do this, we don’t agree with it, it’s my property, I’m not going to do it.’ That’s when our hands are really tied by whatever the courts decide,” Powell said.
“We share your frustration, because none of us want to see a majority of our time spent on a few properties that are just frustrating everybody.”
For a large chunk of the city, code enforcement is not a big issue because properties are located in homeowner associations, which do their own policing and enforcing. That would be most of South Chandler.
However, for traditional neighborhoods in the northern half of the city, code enforcement is the only mechanism available to protect  home values and ensure people are living in well maintained and safe neighborhoods.
Some of those residents feel like the city could do better.
“I cannot tolerate another type of program they are bringing in,” said Mary Yannon, a neighborhood activist. “I’m sorry, I think it’s just more wasted money and they’re not hitting the real rock problem: People don’t take pride in their properties.”
One of the interesting facts Yannon said she heard during the presentation by the city’s top code enforcer is that  many properties in the northern half of the city are rentals.
“Renters just don’t care about their properties,” Yannon said.
In 2006, Arizona voters approved an amendment to the state constitution called the Private Property Rights Protection Act.
 Part of that law forces government bodies to compensate property owners if any regulations they pass lower the value of the property. That has led to a chilling effect: few land use laws have been passed since the law was enacted.
Arizona was already a property rights state before that law. Still, cities and towns have the right to issue regulations for how residents maintain their properties. 
In Chandler, house numbers must be clvisible; the property must be well maintained with no overgrown vegetation; vehicles must be parked on an approved surface; and no storage is allowed in front ofa  home.
 The city says these are the top problems cited by code enforcers:
• Overgrown vegetation/tall grass
• Inoperable vehicles
• Alley maintenance
• Parking on unimproved surfaces
• Litter, trash and debris
• Outside storage
• Unsecured or polluted stagnant pools
• Obstruction of right of way (sidewalks and alleys)
• Deteriorated landscaping
• Excessive accumulation of dry/dead palm fronds
Guy Jaques, Chandler’s neighborhood preservation senior manager, said there are  some areas where his department is already doing very well.
“We also have an amazing graffiti elimination team,” Jaques said, pointing to Tim Tapia, “otherwise known as Eli the Eliminator.” 
“He does amazing job. He responds to graffiti complaints, typically within 24 hours of them being reported.”
Jaques said the city removes up to 2,000 graffiti tags each year.
He said part of their program going forward is to help residents get their homes into compliance. There are programs where the city can help seniors and/or veterans who may not be able to work outdoors get the fixes they need.
Another program, Tools on the Go, loans a lawn mower or other equipment to some residents who need to clean up their properties.
Jaques said since 2021, his department has been upgrading its software to compile better data to improve service.
 One example is that the areas each of the city’s code enforcers patrols was changed to more evenly spread out the workload.
The code enforcement supervisor gets all of South Chandler, because there are not as many violations there thanks to the HOAs. The supervisor has additional responsibilities, including training and filling in for vacation time.
The northern half of Chandler is split into six zones. One of those zones is the newest one, downtown. That position has been filled and the new employee will start in September.
The other five focus on the traditional neighborhoods. Jaques said each code enforcer is expected to find as many violations on their own as are called in.
When there is a violation, property owners get a notice telling them to fix it. Most cases are resolved voluntarily within 30 days.
For the others, cases will go the courts. Jaques said his team handled nearly 4,500 residential cases based on more than 11,000 inspections in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. It also dealt with 960 commercial property issues.
Getting an answer is not always easy. 
In the case of 792 N. Alma School Road, Jaques said the original owner of the property died so his team had to start over. 
Then one of  the owner’s daughters moved in and as their case was proceeding, that woman moved out and another daughter moved in.
Each time ownership changes, the city must start again.
“We have some people – and I know the one that you’re talking about on Harrison as well – … that they flat out weren’t going comply,” Powell said.  
“It didn’t matter to the homeowner that they had a civil violation and they’re racking up fines; it didn’t matter to the owner that they had a warrant out for their arrest because they had a criminal violation.”
Properties such as those are not only frustrating for city officials, but also for their neighbors.
“Do you job, forget the programs and go out and clean up the neighborhoods,” said Linda Sawyer, another neighborhood activist. “It’s a health, safety and quality of life issues for traditional neighborhoods.”  
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