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New Red Bank codes officer cleaning up

No one is exempt from following municipal codes in Red Bank now that the city has a new dedicated codes enforcement officer, Greg James, officially on the job of policing such situations.

Many residents have expressed concern that the city has allowed codes enforcement to slip since July 2011, when former codes enforcement officer Wayne Hamill lost his post and the city’s Public Works department took over the task.

“I want to make sure we clean Red Bank up,” James said to members of the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association, who heard him speak at a recent meeting about his goals as he moves forward in the position. “It’s not going to happen overnight; it’s going to be a long process.”

During the meeting he answered questions from citizens relating to a variety of codes-related issues ranging from clarifications of the law to how to deal with neighbors causing a nuisance.

He explained the process of issuing a codes violation, which begins with a verbal warning. The person in violation is given a period of either 72 hours or 10 days depending on the offense to become compliant, and a certified letter is issued if the property owner remains in violation once that period has expired. The property owner is then given another 10 days to become compliant, and if this does not occur, James said he then knocks on the door and hands the owner a summons to court.

“I just want them to fall in line,” he said. “You’re not only hurting yourself, you’re hurting you’re neighbor when you trash up your place.”

One resident asked what the city considers to be an abandoned car, which city code prohibits residents from keeping on their property in public view. James responded that to legally park a vehicle on one’s property, the owner must keep all tires aired and be able to prove the car is driveable. He said city code stipulates that a working car should be able to move 10 feet forward or backward on its own.

In response to a question concerning what type of people are committing codes violations, James said the culprits are split evenly between those who don’t care about the laws and those who do but are physically or otherwise unable to become compliant. For those who fall under the latter category, he said he asks for the name of someone he can call to help them, and usually this solves the problem.

James also addressed what happens when the person in violation is a renter.

“I don’t know if they’re an owner or a renter when I’m out in the field,” he said, adding that the resident would receive a warning, but the property owner would the one summonsed to court if the renter failed to become compliant. “It’s the property owner’s ultimate responsibility.”

One citizen asked what could be done about the presence of graffiti and furniture being dumped behind the city’s abandoned commercial buildings.

“If I can’t see it from the road it isn’t a violation,” said James, adding that the same is true for residential properties. “I’m not supposed to be snooping around in behind places.”

Some of the residents’ questions involving situations he has yet to encounter, such as what he would do if a homeowner wanted to grow native plants instead of maintaining a manicured lawn, would be addressed when those issues came up, he said.

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