Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Code Compliance

For those of you who are not marginally employed as I am, or "funemployed" as I like to call it, you probably don't get too much of a chance to walk the streets of North Bay Village. I do. I like to get out of the house and get some air and sun and clear my thoughts. You can't walk Treasure Island without noticing the unevenness of the code compliance from add-ons to multiple cars stored on a lawn to landscaping overgrown on the sidewalk.

If you have been involved with commission meetings, there are always several resolutions about code or code variances and Good & Welfare, the open forum, always has comments about code enforcement or lack of in North Bay Village.

For several years now, there has been effectively no code enforcement here in North Bay Village. The laws are on the books but there has been little activity in ensuring compliance.

The city has finally filled the position of Code Enforcement Officer, and in a unique way. Officer Gus Cruz of the North Bay Village Police Department has been assigned permanently to Code Enforcement, a creative solution since it had the benefit of reducing police headcount, while putting a sworn officer with a long background in community policing in charge of the community compliance effort.

Cruz is full time now and I took advantage of him and the fine weather today to walk around Treasure Island, not to point out code violations but to get a sense of how he sees his position. It was a great conversation. He's an engaging guy with a young man's enthusiasm for doing the job but not so young that he doesn't understand that code compliance is more than just the exercise of authority.

The overall goal is clear - get North Bay Village back on track and Cruz is starting this with a three pronged approach.

Education: - using the philosophy of community policing, the fundamental belief is that most failure to comply comes from ignorance of the violation. People do want to comply but may not know the rules or how they apply. Citizens may not understand how their decisions affect their neighbors.

Towards that end, Cruz is planning a series of workshops or presentations in early summer with the residents to review the "Top 10" code violations, what they are, why they are and what can be done about them. An educated populace is an invested populace.

Code Modernization - Building codes are an elaborate combination of state, county and local regulations. These codes have grown organically and often conflict. Working with the city planner and the city attorney, Cruz is reviewing the code to identify areas of conflict and where clarity or practicality are lacking. These will be brought before the commission for revision, addition or deletion. This matters.

(Side note: Cool site WWW.MUNICODE.COM which has all municipal codes nationwide for free.)

Enforcement - There is a special magistrate in place ready and able to hear the complaints and issue decisions on code violations. This was a crucial missing element in our code compliance and when other efforts fail, these will be brought forward.

If you want to talk to Gus Cruz, his phone number is 786 566-1398 or you can email him at gcruz@nbvillage.com or click here if your browser allows you to send emails directly. Gus Cruz

Kevin Vericker

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