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Salisbury code division is staying busy

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
The city’s Code Services Division, which tackles complaints such as junked cars, overgrown lots and deteriorating structures, had a busy 2008.
Code enforcement officers investigated 2,400 nuisance violations (that were cited). The property owner or resident abated 63 percent of those nuisances.
Chris Branham, manager of the newly formed Codes Services Division, said it takes officers a minimum of two visits to a property and sometimes up to four times when a nuisance complaint is made.
“So, really, in 2008, there were approximately 6,200 visits made to nuisance properties,” Branham reported to Salisbury City Council last week.
Since last October, Branham’s office has issued four demolition permits and taken on 49 minimum housing cases, of which 26 are waiting for compliance.
Branham said the average minimum housing case takes at least 15 months before the city can force a repair or demolition.
The Codes Services Division, which includes Branham and three officers, covers a city that, when the extra-territorial jurisdiction is added, encompasses 33.2 square miles and 16,000 parcels of land.
A 2006 study showed the city had 10,466 residential houses, 797 mobile homes and 1,786 commercial and industrial buildings.
Branham said his office is about 95 percent finished with drafting a Downtown Maintenance Code.
The division also is working on a better housing plan, which could include formation of a Code Compliance Board to review appeals.
Branham said he is working to improve his office’s communications with groups such as the Neighborhood Leaders Alliance, Community Appearance Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Crimestoppers, the Salisbury Neighborhood Action Group and Historic Salisbury Foundation.
The code enforcement officers, who wear uniforms and badges and drive similarly branded city vehicles, are being cross-trained and covering the city in sectors, Branham reported.
City officials put special emphasis on reorganizing code enforcement duties last year.
Branham, a civil engineer, is a Clemson University graduate who formerly worked for National Homebuilders in Charlotte.
His hiring last fall was connected to the city’s goal of creating the Code Services Division, which brought together personnel from four different departments and based them at one location ó the city office on Park Avenue.
The 2008-2009 city budget allocated funds toward the hiring of a code services manager and a code specialist to improve enforcement, especially related to run-down housing in several Salisbury neighborhoods.
The Community Appearance Commission and Neighborhood Leaders Alliance have told city officials of their concerns about deteriorating housing since 2006.
Downtown Salisbury Inc. also has pushed for a commercial maintenance code for buildings in the central business district.
City staff formed a 17-person “Better Housing Committee” in 2007 that led to several recommendations, including the call for establishing a housing commission.

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