Letter: Gerwig On Code Fine Changes

In regard to the vote last Tuesday by the Wellington Village Council, Ordinance #2013-09 (Special Magistrate Proceedings), I would like to explain why I voted against this overreaching ordinance and why I believe the council erred in their decision.

According to state law, municipalities over 50,000 residents are able to set higher fines for code violations than Wellington currently has established. With approximately 57,000 residents, Wellington is able to increase the fines that we can levy. However, just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Under this ordinance, a homeowner could be fined up to $1,000 per day for the first violation, $5,000 per day for a repeat violation and $15,000 per day for “irreparable or irreversible violations.” When I asked staff what may constitute the “irreparable or irreversible violation,” which would qualify for the maximum fine, the example given was a resident that is watering their lawn during the wrong times. Staff further responded that it was important for us to realize that the special magistrate does not usually impose the maximum fine, but I am not comfortable with that even being a possibility.

Our code enforcement fines are already more than sufficient. Staff reports that most residents comply with code requests at the “courtesy notice of violation” stage. I do not believe that putting every homeowner in the village in jeopardy of exorbitant fines is the proper response by the council to very isolated instances of property owners who choose to pay the fines instead of rectifying the violation. The few who resist bringing their properties into compliance usually have very unique situations, and this “uber-fine” will not address those problem cases at all.

The ordinance passed on first reading with the required supermajority 4-1 vote. I was the only dissenting vote. Fortunately, the ordinance must come before the council again, for a second reading, and requires another supermajority vote. I urge residents to make their voices heard.

Anne Gerwig, Wellington Councilwoman


  1. And for what entities was this Ordinance crafted? There are only 2 chronic violators according to Village staff.

    Code enforcement has weakened in the Village. Don’t know if code enforcement is overworked with a now ageing Village; or if they are ignoring violations.

    The simple requirement to screen garbage cans and A/C units is ignored.

    People put out their trash the same day trash pick-up has occurred; and then the whole neighborhood gets to look at their trash for the entire week until the next trash pick-up day. This causes others in the neighborhood to mimic the violator’s action and before you know it, the entire neighborhood violates the trash rules. Twice in Sugar Pond and in Paddock Park I neighborhoods there were toilets sitting in the swale for an entire week.

    An ageing Village needs more aggressive enforcement.

    The purpose of the violation notice is to get compliance, not to make money.

    Wellington has had many foreclosures, many homes that are now rented out and the people in these homes are unaware or just don’t care about the rules that had made Wellington a once pristine area in which to live.

    Tighten up!

  2. I am a Code Officer in another juristiction but live in Wellington. While I respect Mrs. Gerwig’s opinion, I wholeheartedly disagree. Most of this towns problems are foreclosed properties and crappy landlord’s. A problem in which Wellington has refused to believe we have here. Why would Mrs. Gerwig care about the habitual violators and what they would have to pay? 80% of the town complies on a Courtesy Notice. There is no need to worry about them, Right?

    Apparently the state legislature thought increased fines would be needed as a town grows or they would not have allowed the increased fines to take place. I know personally many of the Wellington Code Officers and they are a professional group with a simple mission – To protect our cities property values.

    It is no small miracle that our annem has not gone up for quite some time yet our tax collectables remains vigilant. This is due to our property values being protected. This is a severe downswing in property values. Too many actions have to ocurr before any fine is placed on a property. The aforementioned Courtesy Notice, after that time expires another batch of time is issue when a Notice of Violation / Notice of Hearing is sent. If that does not do the trick, The Magistrate will grant even more time. All of this before one dollar of fine penalty is instituted.

    I was at a meeting of Code Officers recently and I had heard a Wellington Officer say something that was quite intelligent. “Wellington is a small town with big city issues ready to come to the forefront.”

    Just allow the fines to increase, if this does not deter the Landlords from their junk properties being cleaned up well they deserve everything they get.

  3. Councilwoman Gerwig can rest assured that the residents are being urged to make our voices heard against the habitual violators of our Codes. The mega industry leader, who constantly flaunts our Codes, needs to come into compliance as every citizen is required to do.
    Why does Gerwig support Code Violators at our expense?

    • Are the code restrictions “reasonable”? Perhaps if more people violate the restrictions then comply with them, we should ask this question. “Residents (low information voters) are being urged”, this is the problem with low information voters. They are like sheep and are used by persons with an agenda, and that agenda is often not in the best interest of the people being used

      • WIC (Well Informed Citizen) describes anyone who does not agree with him as “Low information voters”. This is the height of arrogance and hubris. How dare he believe that just because someone does not hold his views they must be low information voters and that they are being used and are like sheep.

        It is also disappointing that WIC hides behind an anonymous nickname instead of using his real name to support the courage of his convictions and sweeping generalizations.

  4. Anne Gerwig is the voice of reason on the Wellington Village Council. I support her decision not to increase the penalties for code violations since the existing fines are so high already that rational judges will not impose them. There is absolutely no evidence that higher fines will be more effective in preventing future code violations.

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