Officials, residents meet to discuss code enforcement

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published April 19, 2016

 Code Enforcement Manager Maria Calhoun discusses the roles and processes of her department April 14 at the Code Enforcement Community Dialogue inside the council chambers.

Code Enforcement Manager Maria Calhoun discusses the roles and processes of her department April 14 at the Code Enforcement Community Dialogue inside the council chambers.

Photo by Trish O’Blenes

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SOUTHFIELD — For the first time, city officials and residents met to have a discussion on the city’s standards of curb appeal.

Residents were invited to meet with Mayor Ken Siver, the Southfield City Council and a handful of city officials, who hosted a Code Enforcement Community Dialogue April 14 in the council chambers. 

Siver said the idea for the event came from issues derived from the mayoral election in November.

“The second most common thing we heard from residents was code enforcement, so I had promised if I was elected mayor that I would begin a community dialogue, and thus we are here this evening,” Siver said.

Code Enforcement Manager Maria Calhoun was on hand to explain how the city’s Code Enforcement Department works, and repercussions that residents could face if they do not comply with community standards. 

“I know that the mayor, City Council and administration will appreciate your honesty and willingness to share your input in order to be able to objectively determine what we are doing right, as well as areas where you’d like to see some improvement,” Calhoun said.

According to the city’s website, the Code Enforcement Department enforces the city’s ordinances to abate and prevent nuisances within the community through the inspection of commercial and residential properties.

Five officers — who are sworn constables of the city — cover the 30 neighborhoods in Southfield, Calhoun said.

If a violation occurs, officers will address the issue in a confidential and friendly way, she said. Once notified of a complaint, the property owner will have time to fix the issue. If property owners do not comply with city standards, civil action may be sought.

“We are neighborhood friendly,” Calhoun said. “If you take care of the violation, then we go away.”

Residents can call the city’s hotline for code violations at (248) 796-3937.

Following the presentation, residents and city officials formed breakout sessions in the Southfield Pavilion. Charlie Fleetham, of Project Innovations Inc., moderated the event.

Attendees were broken up into 14 groups. Each was given a city official to head a discussion on the pros and cons of the current code enforcement system in the city, as well as what they would like to change.

City Planner Terry Croad, Community Relations Director Michael Manion, City Attorney Sue Ward-Witkowski, Human Resources Director Lori Siskind, Councilwoman Tawnya Morris, Councilman Dan Brightwell, Fiscal Services Director Lyn Roberts, DDA Executive Director Al Aceves, City Administrator Fred Zorn,  Deputy City Administrator John Michrina, Assistant City Planner Jeff Spence, City Clerk Nancy Banks, Councilman Myron Frasier and City Librarian Dave Ewick hosted the discussions.

Gail Mazey, of the Oakland Village Civic Association, said she attended the event on behalf of her neighborhood.

“One of the concerns that is pretty consistent is there’s more pressure put on homeowners than on businesses, and there’s inconsistency,” Mazey said.

Resident Lori Archer said she believes code enforcement is important because the city is in a transitional period.

“I came because the city is on the cusp of growth and change for the better, and we need to tighten up our code enforcement laws,” Archer said.

Following the breakout sessions, each official gave an overview of what his or her group discussed.

“Some of the positives our group came up with is that they felt that the code enforcement was very fast to respond, and they had good relationships with the subdivisions and also that they were pretty thorough,” Morris said. “They had concerns that maybe (code enforcement) could have a little more empathy. Sometimes it’s of a punitive nature that they present the ordinances to residents, and they feel they should have more of a helpful type of stance when coming into a situation and just write the notice and a fee, so we want to look at that.”

Siver said the city will be compiling the list of suggestions.

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