Code enforcement continues as big issue in Harper Woods

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published July 13, 2015

HARPER WOODS — Judge Daniel Palmer, of the 32A District Court, understands city officials’ concerns about code enforcement, which were concerns he also heard from residents during his election campaign last year.

City officials have been outspoken during recent City Council meetings about their concerns that residents and business owners are not maintaining their properties.

“Something has snapped this year,” Mayor Ken Poynter said during a City Council meeting last month. “I don’t know what it is. To be so lazy, so irresponsible, and to use the pavement as your personal dumping ground, that’s just disgusting.

“Our city manager’s absolutely correct — we hope that our judge gets really tough with these tickets being issued,” he said. “I don’t know how anybody can justify being so irresponsible. I go by some of these houses; I just can’t get over it.”

Palmer, who took over the 32A District Court judge seat at the beginning of the year, said he believes this is an issue that the city needs to take seriously.

“The subject of code enforcement was a high-priority issue for many residents that I spoke to during my campaign for judge last fall,” he said in an email. “It was clear then that this is something that residents believe has a direct impact on the quality of life in our community.

“As a Harper Woods resident, I believe that it is imperative that we, as residents, comply with the city’s code of ordinances,” he said. “We owe it to each other as neighbors to do our part to ensure that Harper Woods continues to thrive.”

Palmer said that he has seen the number of citations for ordinance violations increase during his time as judge, but the number continues to be a small percentage of the overall cases he hears, including criminal, landlord/tenant, traffic and other cases.

He said that when the ordinance violation cases come in front of him, he takes them seriously.

“Partly because of my appreciation for residents who take ordinance violations seriously, I treat these cases just as passionately when they are brought before me,” he said.

“The city has numerous ordinances that govern all manner of life in the city,” he said. “As a previous City Council member, I was proud of the work done by our ordinance committee (and supported by council), which resulted in an overall improvement to the code of ordinances.”

He said the preference is to get compliance for the violation.

“When that is not possible, the penalties for ordinance violations can include fines and/or jail time,” he said.

Besides the code violation issue, Palmer has been busy working with the courtroom staff during his first months on the bench to make sure the court runs in the most efficient way possible, he said.

The court recently added a volunteer mediator for the civil litigation docket, which he said is helping with productivity.

“This mediator has assisted litigants in airing differences and working toward resolution of their cases, which has led to the settlement of some cases without the need for a formal hearing,” he said. “So far, this new mediator has increased courtroom efficiency and has been well-received by litigants.”