The John Day City Council gave their support Aug. 27 to several code enforcement measures included in a nine-page report from City Manager Nick Green.
A few issues were left undecided, including stricter regulations on the number of dogs allowed at a residence and whether to allow seasonal workers to live in RVs or trailers at some state facilities.
Green, who is the designated city planning official and floodplain administrator, explained that portions of the city code were out of date or had never been developed. The city recently filled a part-time code enforcement position.
“It is important to note that city staff do not create the code,” Green said. “The code is adopted by the city council as the governing body of the city. It is enforced by city staff. Unless specifically authorized by provisions in the code, staff cannot make amendments or grant exemptions to code requirements. In some cases, the council also cannot grant exemptions and must amend codes in order to accommodate changing circumstances.”
The council gave its consensus support to Green’s proposed enforcement policy. Responsible parties will be given notice for unintentional code violations, but if left unabated, they will face a $500 fine for the violation and $500 per day if the violation continues.
Green will exercise his judgment in determining if a violation was deliberate, such as continuing to work after a stop-work order has been issued. Licensed general contractors who deliberately violate the code or who have multiple violations will be reported to the Oregon Construction Contractors Board, and the city will pursue its rights and remedies under the law to enforce compliance.
Pending zoning enforcement actions in John Day include two stop-work orders where construction was underway without a permit. City code also establishes a wide variety of public nuisances, from bulk solid waste and derelict structure to waste tires and yard debris.
“Most nuisance code violations can be resolved with a simple phone call,” Green said. “In some cases, written notifications are needed with specific timelines for remediation as described in the ordinance. More complex abatements and/or abandoned structures take longer and require more tailored solutions.”
Pending nuisance code enforcement actions include an abandoned home on Northwest Second Avenue and hazardous trees and a derelict structure on Northeast Dayton Street. The council could not reach a consensus about a property with seven dogs that create noise and smells. Green noted that restrictions on animal numbers or requiring a kennel license were options.
Floodplain violations can result in higher flood insurance rates or the city losing its eligibility for flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program, Green said. Pending violations include cut-and-fill work on a public trail along the John Day River near the fairgrounds, missing foundation floodgates for new construction on South Canyon Boulevard and improper anchoring of a trailer house at Riverside Mobile Home Park.
Green noted that the city lacks a standardized floodplain development permit and standard operating procedures tailored for John Day’s floodplain. The city’s floodplain ordinance also needs updating, he said.
The council agreed to amend the code to allow people to temporarily live in RVs while a home is under construction, but they couldn’t agree on whether to allow seasonal workers to live in RVs or trailers at the Oregon Department of Forestry or Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife offices on Patterson Bridge Road.
Several councilors wanted system development fees paid for RVs or trailers with residents. Councilor Steve Schuette said, if the city won’t allow RV dwelling on private property, it shouldn’t be allowed on state property. Councilor Paul Smith noted that the state should have at least contacted the city.
The council also agreed to amend city code to allow a single-family house in the Downtown or General Commercial zones that had been used as a business prior to the 2005 change to a residence. About six homes fit into this category.
During discussion, concerns were raised about allowing permitted uses to flip-flop like that, and Green suggested homeowners were less likely than businesses to keep up their property. But the councilors agreed that increasing the housing stock in John Day was important.
Green explained that John Day has an intergovernmental agreement with Grant County to manage development in the urban growth boundary area but lacks an agreement to manage building permits.
“The result is a lack of clarity around enforcement activities and which jurisdiction will lead enforcement actions for code violations,” he said.
Problems occurred in the past when the city extended services and then annexed small subdivisions where a developer installed water lines with the intention of the city adopting them in the future, Green said.
In some cases, developers did not provide as-built plans or engineering certifications for their work, or the city approved land divisions or property line adjustments without properly establishing access easements, utility easements or public rights-of-way, he said.
“The lack of continuity in our development planning and lack of enforcement has created several complex planning problems,” Green said.
Green recommended reviewing the existing intergovernmental agreement with the county and creating a new one that manages building permits and enforces the standards. In the meantime, he called for not allowing new connections in subdivisions with proven infrastructure problems. The council agreed.