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Granite Quarry discusses its approach to code enforcement

GRANITE QUARRY — Overgrown grass, litter, open storage, signs, dilapidated houses and junked cars — these are some of the things that could be more actively policed in the future, according to town officials.

The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen looked deeper into its code enforcement tactics at Friday’s one-day retreat, with interim Town Manager Larry Smith giving the board background on the history of enforcement, where it stands now and what it could be in the future.

Mayor Bill Feather said he doesn’t want to see the town be overly aggressive on code enforcement, yet “certain things need to be addressed.”

“The only question I have is, how do you want to enforce it?” Feather asked others in the room.

Smith’s answer was, “The happy middle generally gets the results you want.”

In his presentation, Smith put emphasis on one thing: “Currently there is no active practice of town-ordered abatements or civil citations.”

The town traditionally has provided code enforcement on “a mainly as-noticed and complaint-driven basis,” Smith said.

N-Focus was used for code enforcement until 2016. The town transitioned from a full-time planning staff in 2017 and temporarily turned to Benchmark for planning and code enforcement services.

After that contract ended June 30, 2017, code enforcement generally fell to the town’s part-time planner, Steve Blount, and things that could be addressed quickly by the town maintenance department.

Smith said Blount does ride-arounds, makes note of violations and keeps a log of the violations for which he sends out notices. He also fields complaints coming into Town Hall and follows up on outstanding violations.

Smith added maintenance supervisor Jason Hord “initiates a surprising number of code enforcement actions already, simply through direct contact with owners and residents.”

“In these instances, most all violations have been abated voluntarily with no further action needed,” Smith said.

Alderman John Linker asked if the town should do an inventory of what code violations exist, then put priorities on the ones to address. Mayor Pro Tem Jim LaFevers added the violations could then be categorized as safety-driven vs. aesthetically driven.

Blount already had done an inventory, finding 60 to 80 possible town code violations with a good number of those having been addressed.

But Blount told the board if it wanted to enforce codes properly, the town needs to be proactive and consistent and follow through after violations are noted.

Several aldermen said Blount, in his part-time capacity and with his overall planning duties, shouldn’t be expected to handle all the code enforcement responsibilities — if any at all.

“I think it should be someone else,” Linker said.

Agreeing that Blount couldn’t handle it all, Feather said he didn’t necessarily want the code enforcement to fall completely on the maintenance or police departments, either.

If the town took a more aggressive approach to code enforcement, the board could “likely expect a very dramatic uptick in citizen feedback,” Smith said.

Smith told aldermen he would target March 31 as a date to determine whether additional staff is needed and whether there should be a restructuring plan.

“Many issues seem to be quality control, or items we can easily get in front of,” Smith reported.

He added some valuable “partnering resources” are not being fully utilized such as the Community Appearance Commission; the Downtown Revitalization Committee; Parks, Events and Recreation Committee; homeowner associations; and the city of Salisbury and Rowan County government.

On another matter, the aldermen heard the complete update of its code of ordinances would cost $11,950 and take 12 to 15 months to complete. Municode would serve as the town’s “total code administrator,” if the town went with that service.

Municode would essentially examine Granite Quarry’s code and make sure it conforms to state statutes. “This hasn’t been done in 20 years, as far as I know,” Feather said.

Town Clerk Tanya Word added, “They’re outdated, No. 1. It’s not a want, it’s a need.”

Blount reported updates of the Unified Development Ordinance and zoning maps are ongoing and “should be part of the codification process being handled by the town clerk.”

Some identified issues being addressed are stormwater management, signs, minimum housing sizes, zoning classifications for churches and parks, neighborhood connectivity, front-yard fencing clarifications, rear-building facade and landscaping requirements in the downtown and the maintenance of undeveloped lots in subdivisions.

At Friday’s retreat, the town board also asked for a report on the Chase Ridge mobile home community off Troutman Road and also Devynne Woods, located off Chasestone Court.

Chase Ridge has 17 lots of its 33 total lots occupied with a mixture of single and doublewide homes. Blount reported there also are two nonmaintained retention ponds.

Devynne Woods, which sits behind Chase Ridge, has 35 lots, but only one home has been built in the subdivision.

Blount recommended that the town work with the owner or developer to improve the visual appeal of Chase Ridge by providing landscaping improvements along Troutman Road, clean up and landscape the abandoned retention ponds, force tenants to clean up their properties and remove all single mobile homes.

The town also should encourage the replacement of mobile homes along Troutman Road with modular or stick-built homes, Blount’s report said.

“If we don’t do anything,” Feather said, “it’s going to stay just the way it is.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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