Code enforcement has been a big topic this spring and summer in Mountain View. At the request of Mountain View United (MVU) participants, a new volunteer project to provide code-related community education is commencing soon.
Although ultimately, property owners are responsible for knowing and following the town laws (and the Town Code is available on the website as well as at Town Hall) Council Member Kathleen Bailey has generously agreed to partner with MVU to create educational materials to highlight the overall process and some of Council’s biggest enforcement priorities.
The enforcement process involves three successive notices mailed to property owners from Jake Cooke, the town’s appointed Code Enforcement Officer. The notices include photographs of the violations, as well as the relevant code sections and citations.
Community members are invited to respond to Jake in order to discuss the issues at hand and share their plans for mitigating the problems. The goal is always voluntary compliance.
Since Jake is only in town on Tuesdays, but is in other small towns throughout the rest of the week doing similar work, these conversations may take a number of weeks, and residents should not worry if they don’t immediately hear back from Jake.
Sometimes, conversations initiated by this process instigate Town Council conversations about potential updates to the code. When this happens, the enforcement action is paused while council has a chance to consider if the code needs to be modified.
Since Mountain View has only recently begun the new enforcement efforts, many of these issues have not been addressed for some time and require reasonable modifications by council in order to make them more fairly enforceable and/or bring them up to date with current community expectations.
If voluntary compliance is not achieved after the first three notices from the town, and Jake’s conversations with the property owner do not result in the need for council to study the issue further, the code violation then moves to the Mountain View Police Department for a court summons.
The summons will bring the property owner in front of the municipal judge who can hear the property owner’s responses and justifications for continued non-compliance. Fines, fees and other actions can result from court, but prior to the court’s involvement no fines are assessed.
The process for code enforcement and the details of the code are usually straightforward, but not always immediately clear to all. It can be stressful for the community to suddenly have town-wide enforcement after very little has been expected from them in this area for many years.
Community members will benefit from periodic code education, and Council Member Bailey’s work with MVU is greatly appreciated. The educational efforts will be shared via letters, bulletin boards, social media, flyers and brochures as well as the Neighborhood Gazette articles. The goal is to have multiple approaches so that all community members are included. Please look for these educational materials in the coming months.