The purpose of code enforcement is to help minimize the effect of deterioration and blight within a neighborhood or the larger community. Like many cities, Lebanon has a code enforcement officer within the Planning Department and code enforcement provisions within the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). However, there can be more code violations than the code enforcement officer can keep up with. As a result, code enforcement is sometimes reactionary to complaints.
The process includes the following:
- Any person in the community can file a written complaint with the Planning Department, or the Planning and Zoning Administrator. Additionally, the Code Enforcement Officer may observe a violation of the UDO.
- The Code Enforcement Officer investigates the complaint or violation.
- If a violation is deemed to have occurred, the Code Enforcement Officer issues a citation for a civil zoning violation. The property owner must remedy the citation via different options noted in the UDO.
- If not remedied, then monetary fines, injunctions, or a trial can occur.
It may take several months to resolve even a minor violation and years to resolve a major one if it goes to litigation.
Many communities proactively address potential violations by initiating a code enforcement campaign. This campaign is a program meant to improve compliance with zoning codes by making code inspection more proactive than reactive. The City should periodically focus efforts on widespread or recurring issues, first with an information campaign, then notices to owners of property that are violating codes, and finally formal violation tickets, if necessary. Code officers can proactively establish personal relationships with property owners, tenants, and landlords. This relationship allows code officers to more effectively work with offenders to determine how best to address and remedy the situation before the City is forced to take legal action. The end goal of the program should be compliance and a more attractive community, and code enforcement should not be looked at as a potential revenue stream for the City.
Some communities have also established a separate department to handle less serious violations. Establishing this department requires an operating budget for the department, additional code enforcement officers, and a code hearing officer to hear violations.