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