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Roseville

July 2, 2013

Blight Busters crack down on ‘Top 10 Most Wanted List’

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

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Grass more than 6 inches tall is a code violation in Roseville.
Anyone can be a Blight Buster

All residents, business owners, local stakeholders and friends of the City of Roseville are invited to become Roseville Blight Busters.

To join, just contact the City Manager’s Office and request a copy of the Blight Busters presentation or review the tips on this page, then just keep an open eye to potential code violations.

Blight Busters are asked to include three pieces of information in all reports:

• The location of the violation — street name, address and location on property whenever possible.

• A description of the violation — tall grass, open garbage, etc.

• The day and approximate time they saw or witnessed the violation.

Participating residents are asked to bear in mind that it is still illegal to enter onto someone’s property without permission. All information collected must be done so from public property or personal property.

Reports can be submitted in person at City Hall, located at 29777 Gratiot Ave.; by phone at (586) 445-5447; or by email at CodeEnforcement@roseville-mi.gov.

For more information, contact the city manager’s office by phone at (586) 445-5410 or by email at manager@roseville-mi.gov.

ROSEVILLE — They are a group of more than three dozen residents who have taken to the streets, armed with pen and paper, trained in what to look for and ready to report.

They are the Roseville Blight Busters, a group trained by the city to notice and report offenders on Roseville’s “Top 10 Most Wanted List” for code violations.

The busters have been trained in the city code, and while out and about around town, they take note of code violations and relay the information to the city. It’s a system aimed at helping aid the often taxed code-enforcement officers and keep the city beautiful.

“We have four code-enforcement officers and we have divided the city up in segments, but because of the size of the city, you could be past a location on Monday and by Friday, the grass may have already grown at that point, so the extra eyes and ears in between are an added plus,” said City Manager Scott Adkins.

The city’s four full-time code-enforcement officers don’t have all day to seek out violations; they’re required to follow-up anytime they write a citation and make regular visits to sites with ongoing violations.

“We’ve trained interested residents in what to look for, and when they notify us of a code violation, we send our code-enforcement officers out there to validate it,” Adkins said. “It saves us time if they give us the location; then, we can pinpoint it rather than having to roam the city in sections, which has been our past practice.”

Since the Blight Bust program was unveiled by the city in late spring, reports of violations around the city have increased. But their aim isn’t to write citations; it’s to keep the city clean and safe. Much of the time, residents are notified of an issue and given time to fix it before being issued a citation.

“We want to work with residents,” Adkins said. “We would rather work with residents to abate the nuisance than have to issue a notice, a violation or a citation. It wastes everyone’s time and we don’t want to do that. If we can help somebody prevent violating an ordinance, that’s what we want to do, and if somebody does have an ordinance violation, we want to help them abate the nuisance.”

The residents that have participated in Blight Bust feel the same way.

“A lot of times, with unkempt lawns in houses where people are actually living, because usually we find them on bank-owned or foreclosed properties, the people who live there are senior citizens or physically unable to do it and can’t afford to have someone come out and do it,” said 53-year-old John Danforth, who participates in the Blight Bust program.

Since getting involved earlier this summer, the most common issues Danforth has noticed are deteriorating homes or buildings and tall grass and weeds. He said that many of the properties he makes note of are not actually being lived in.

“There are a lot of issues with bank-owned homes and abandoned commercial properties,” Danforth said. “There was one industrial property off Groesbeck that had a truck well (that was) filled with water. It was probably one of the worst code violations I’ve seen so far. That truck well was about 4 feet to 5 feet deep and a kid could easily fall in there and drown, and too, it’s a mosquito breeding ground.”

The city has armed the Blight Busters like Danforth with a “10 Most Wanted List,” and while everything on the list creates a blight issue, they aren’t on there based solely on aesthetics. The items on the list also pose health and safety concerns.

So what’s on the list?

Junk and debris
According to city code, properties must be kept clean of junk and debris, such as car parts, excess garbage and construction materials.

“Rule of thumb would be anything that is normally outside does not count as junk and debris — barbecues, kids’ toys, those plastic toys, sand boxes — things that are made to be weather resistant,” said a Roseville city code enforcement officer and building inspector who asked not to be named.

“We take a reasonable approach — if someone is renovating their home, we understand they are going to have materials there — but if someone has done the renovation, and three months after, there is still a pile of materials, at that point that is not reasonable,” added Adkins.

Refuse storage
City code says all refuse storage must be kept in the rear of the home in cans with lids.

“The key is proper containers with lids,” Adkins said. “We hope that with the change of our rubbish contractor, we are going to afford people the opportunity to have closed recycle carts that are sturdier and have built-in lids.”

Tall grass and weeds
The rule of thumb here is that if it looks shaggy, it’s too long, but the official number is 6 inches — grass or weeds taller than six inches violate code.

Dog droppings
According to city code, they must be picked up daily, but Adkins said the city doesn’t monitor the daily habits of dog owners.

“You kind of put people on the honor system with this one — if they have an animal, they are going to maintain and pick up after their dog,” Adkins said. “There are probably cases where someone doesn’t get it every day. If you have a poodle versus a great Dane, there is a difference of what you have to pick up.”

Like many items on the top 10 list, a requirement to pick up dog droppings daily is as much about the odor they can create as it is about not attracting rodents.

Parking on the grass
All vehicles must be parked on approved surfaces — a front lawn is not one of them.

“Typically, it is more or less storing cars on the grass in the backyard, but sometimes you see parking on the grass off main roads,” said the city code enforcement officer.

Wood storage
All wood must be kept at least 8 inches off the ground and be neatly stacked no higher than 4 feet.

“That’s in there because of rats,” said the city code enforcement officer. “There are many different ways to build a rack. If you have two pillars on the ground and then a board across to stack the wood on, that’s fine.

Commercial vehicles
According to city code, the parking of commercial vehicles on residential property is not allowed. Some commercial trucks are allowed, though, and Adkins said at other times, exceptions could be made.

“Again, it’s about what is reasonable and accepted versus what is unreasonable and not accepted,” Adkins said.

“There are certain exceptions that can be made going through the Planning Commission — say, for example, someone who owns a heating and cooling company and their commercial work van is their primary source of transportation — but they do have to go through and get approval to do that.”

Improperly stored vehicles
All vehicles must be licensed, registered, insured and operable to remain on residential property. Any inoperable vehicles must be parked in a garage.

“If someone gets a flat on their car and they know they are going to be gone for two weeks, call and let us know and we will document it, and it will prevent you from getting the citation,” Adkins said. “Any question, any doubt, call us; that’s what we are here for. If we can try to prevent an issuance of a notice or a violation, it will save us all time.”

Recreational vehicles and equipment
City code requires all recreational vehicles, such as boats, RVs, jet skis and the like, must be licensed, registered and properly stored in the rear yard.

“The interesting thing with boats is that if you have the plug in the boat, and if you don’t have a good cover on the boat and it just sits there, boats are made to float in water and hold water, and water breeds mosquitoes,” Adkins said.

Sheds
Most sheds require a permit, but even ones that don’t must be installed on a 4-inch thick cement slab with a rat wall to prevent rats from burrowing down, under and into the shed. Permits for sheds must be obtained prior to installation.

When in doubt or if unsure about any code issue, Adkins recommends calling the city.

“If in doubt, call and inquire and we will check it out and provide an answer,” Adkins said.

For more information on Blight Busters or city codes, call (586) 445-5410.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.