Inspecting and re-inspecting: Council to consider increasing fees

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Friday, August 23, 2013

JANESVILLE—The cost of ignoring city inspectors could go up to $100.

On Monday, the Janesville City Council will consider changes to two ordinances that would allow a $100 charge for re-inspections.

In a memo to the city council, Kelly Mack, city neighborhood development specialist, explained that changes were needed to make fees more consistent among city departments and to cover more of the costs associated with re-inspections.

Re-inspection fees are charged when city inspectors request a homeowner or business to comply with the ordinances and those requests are ignored.

When a city department, such as neighborhood services, receives a complaint about an ordinance violation, a staff member is sent to investigate. Violations include issues such as consistently overgrown grass, couches or other furniture in the front yard and other nuisance issues.

If the homeowner or business is in violation, the city sends a letter asking that the problem be fixed within 14 days.

If the city inspector returns and the problem has been taken care of, no fee is assessed.

If the city inspector returns and the problem has not been taken care of, and the inspector has to return a third time, a re-inspection fee is charged, Mack explained.

“If people call us and say, 'Hey, can we have through the weekend to get this taken care of?' we'll give them the time,” Mack said.  “We work with people a lot. We don't want to charge people money. We want the problem to go away.”

On Monday, the council will consider two ordinances changes.

The first would raise the re-inspection fee from $50 to $100 for building, nuisance, vehicle, traffic and housing regulations.

The fire department charges $100 for re-inspection fees, the memo said.

The second would create a re-inspection fee of $100 for violations of zoning regulations.

“A large amount of staff time is used on zoning regulation enforcement,” the memo said.

Common zoning violations include parking on the front lawn, more than two recreation vehicles on a property, ongoing garage sales and what the city refers to as “illegal home occupation.”

People running auto repair shops in their home garages fall into that category.

Many people, such as Avon representatives, run businesses out of their homes, and that's not illegal, Mack said.

But businesses that bring additional traffic and noise to a neighborhood are not permitted.

How bad is the problem?

In 2012, neighborhood services staff performed 5,356 inspections. Of those, 604 were related to zoning violations.

In 2012, neighborhood services charged 63 re-inspection fees for a total of $3,150.  In 2011, when the city had an additional, seasonal inspector, 193 re-inspection fees were charged for a total of $9,650.

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