Sparks City Council Meeting 1/26/2015 2:00:00 PMMonday, January 26, 2015 2:00 PM
Council Chambers, Legislative Bldg., 745 4th St., Sparks
Public Hearing and Action Items Unrelated to Planning and Zoning: 10.1
A Business Impact Statement is not required because this is not a rule.
In August of 2014 the City Council adopted a limited set of property conservation amendments to the Sparks Municipal Code (Code). The City Council also directed staff to bring forward proposed changes to the Code to grant code enforcement officers the ability to issue civil citations to those failing to correct violations and, equally important, to provide a process to appeal violation notices, citations, fines and fees. The proposed ordinance would amend Chapter 2 of the Code to provide code enforcement officers and other appropriate City officials (e.g., police officers, building official, city manager) the authority to issue and record notices of violation, issue civil citations and fines, and, if the violation is not corrected, lien properties. The proposed ordinance would establish uniform minimum requirements for administrative enforcement and adjudication procedures and provide for an administrative hearing and appeal process. The use of these procedures would generally be in lieu of criminal sanctions which may be pursued to address violations of the Code.
In November 2013, the City Council directed staff to work on a set of property conservation amendments to the Sparks Municipal Code (the “Code”) to address some of the most common complaints (e.g., inoperable vehicles in front and side yards, dirt front yards, boarded windows) the City currently receives but lacked sufficient authority in the code to effectively mitigate. In August of 2014 the City Council adopted a set of such amendments. The City Council also directed staff to bring forward proposed changes to the Code to grant code enforcement officers the ability to issue civil citations to those failing to correct violations and, equally important, to provide a process to appeal violation notices, citations, fines and fees.
The proposed amendments are to Sparks Municipal Code Title 2 (Administration and Personnel) and specifically to add a new section to Chapter 2.27 (Delegation).
The City’s code enforcement officers will initiate the civil citation and administrative code enforcement procedures proposed in this ordinance only after other standard procedures have been unsuccessfully employed. This includes contacting the property owner in writing to inform them that a violation exists, and providing them a minimum of 10 days to correct the violation. Stated otherwise, the civil citation process will not be used as a first resort but rather when other enforcement efforts have failed or in those cases where the property owner has requested they be issued a notice of violation so that they can appeal the notice to the City’s administrative hearing officer.
Enforcement officials. As defined in Section 2.27.075 of the proposed ordinance, the enforcement officials granted the authority to use the civil citation process are, in addition to code enforcement officers, other city staff with code enforcement responsibilities including the city manager, fire chief, police officers, building official, environmental control officers, revenue officers, or their authorized designees.
Recovery of administrative fees. Per Section 2.27.085-100, the ordinance permits the City to recover costs incurred for its code enforcement efforts. The administrative fee schedule is subject to City Council approval. Administrative fees may be charged for time spent by City personnel for investigation, inspection, re-inspection, recording and canceling recording of notices, title search, and any other processing costs associated with the violations specified on the notice of violation or administrative citation.
The proposed ordinance authorizes the following procedures:
A. Notice of violation (Article II - Sections 2.27.110-140). If the enforcement official’s standard protocol has not resulted in the correction of a violation, the enforcement official may issue a notice of violation to the responsible person and, if appropriate, all property owners of record. Article II prescribes:
- The information that the notice must include and the steps required before the enforcement official can record the notice of violation, if the violation is not corrected.
- In the event the responsible person and/or owner(s) of record request an administrative hearing, the ordinance specifies the hearing process, the information to be considered by the City’s administrative hearing officer and possible outcomes.
- Upon correction of the violation, the process for issuance and recordation of a notice of compliance and removal of the notice of violation.
Article II includes a provision (Section 2.27.140) that, for properties where a notice of violation has been recorded, the City may withhold all approvals for applications of land use approvals, business licenses and building permits until a notice of compliance has been issued.
B. Administrative citations and fines (Article III – Sections 2.27.145-165). This article enables enforcement officials to issue administrative fines, through the means of an administrative citation, for violations of the Code or for failing to comply with any condition imposed by any permit, license, variance, environmental documents, or other approvals issued by the City.
- Administrative fines shall be imposed, enforced, collected and reviewed in compliance with the provisions of the proposed ordinance. Section 2.27.155 specifies the contents of the citation and the steps that the enforcement official must take to issue a citation, a deadline for compliance, and the amount of the fine. The citation must inform the party responsible for the code violation that they may request, within 10 days, an administrative hearing.
- Section 2.27.160 proposes fine amounts. For residential property, a first citation carries a fine of $100, the second citation is $250 and the third and subsequent citations would be $500 each. For commercial property, the schedule is the same except that a fourth (and subsequent) violations would be $1,000 each.
- Failure to pay an administrative citation within the specified time frame may result in the enforcement official referring the matter to the finance department or other designated agent of the City for collection. Alternatively, the enforcement official shall pursue any other legal remedy to collect the fines.
C. Abatements (Article IV – Sections 2.27.170-200). Article IV enables the administrative and summary abatement of code violations. Any condition caused, maintained or permitted to exist in violation of any provisions of the Code may be abated by the City pursuant to these procedures.
- Section 2.27.180 specifies the noticing process that must be followed prior to the City taking any abatement action to address code violations. The notice must describe the action required of the responsible party to abate the violation which may include, but is not limited to: corrections, repairs, demolition, removal, obtaining the necessary permits, vacation of tenants or occupants or other appropriate required actions.
- Responsible persons or the property owner may request an administrative hearing.
- Per Section 2.27.185, if the time for compliance has lapsed without abatement being fully completed by the responsible person, and if City staff has complied with all applicable procedural requirements, the violations may be abated by City personnel or by a private contractor hired by the City for that purpose.
- When the abatement is completed, a report describing the work performed and an itemized accounting of the total abatement costs shall be prepared by the enforcement official. The enforcement official shall schedule a confirmation of costs hearing before a hearing officer, unless waived in writing by all responsible persons.
- All administrative fees and actual costs incurred by the City in abating the violations may be assessed and recovered against the responsible person pursuant to the provisions set forth in this chapter. In addition, the City may seek that actual costs of the abatement be collected on the county's tax roll, together with the county's general taxes.
- Section 2.27.190 provides for a summary abatement process that may be employed when an enforcement official determines there exists an imminent hazard that requires immediate correction or elimination. In such cases the enforcement official may summarily abate the hazard without prior notice to the responsible person but only to the minimum level of correction or abatement necessary to eliminate the imminent hazard.
D. Code enforcement liens (Article V – Sections 2.27.205-215). These sections of the ordinance permit an enforcement official to record a code enforcement lien to collect all administrative fees, administrative fines, abatement costs and other costs provided for by this ordinance. Before recording a code enforcement lien, an enforcement official shall provide to the responsible person and all owners of record a notice stating that a lien will be recorded unless payment of all monies due is paid in full on or before the date specified in the notice. Section 2.27.215 specifies the process for removal of a lien, once payment is received in full by the City, by recordation of a notice of satisfaction which shall have the effect of canceling the code enforcement lien.
E. Administrative hearings (Article VI – Sections 2.27.220-280). Article VI establishes the procedures for the use of hearing officers and the conduct of administrative hearings.
- The City will appoint and compensate an administrative hearing officer, who shall not be an employee of the City. A hearing officer is subject to disqualification for bias, prejudice, interest, or for any other reason for which a judge may be disqualified in a court of law.
- Section 2.27.235 addresses the powers of the hearing officer, which include the ability to issue a subpoena for witnesses, documents and other evidence where the attendance of the witness or the admission of evidence is deemed necessary to decide the issues at the hearing.
- Section 2.27.245 specifies when and how a responsible person may request an administrative hearing: upon receipt of notice of violation; upon receipt of a notice indicating that the enforcement official intends to record a notice of violation; for a denial of a request for a notice of compliance or notice of satisfaction; when issued an administrative citation; and, upon receipt of a notice that the City intends to abate a violation. Requests for an administrative hearing must be in writing and filed with the City Clerk on or before 10 business days after service of the notice or citation.
- Sections 2.27.255-270 prescribes the procedures for administrative hearings, including scheduling, admission of evidence, the standard of proof, and representation.
- The decisions of the hearing officer are deemed “administrative orders”, which serve to affirm, modify or reject the enforcement official’s action. Where applicable, the hearing officer may affirm, modify or reject the daily rate or duration of the administrative fines, depending upon the review of the evidence, or may increase or decrease the total amount of administrative fines assessed (see Section 2.27.275).
F. Appeal to court (Article VII – Sections 2.27.285-290). An administrative order may be appealed to the municipal court within 30 calendar days from service of an administrative order or other decision by the hearing officer. Any party may appeal the determination of the hearing officer to municipal court, unless appeal to another tribunal is required by law. Any party failing to timely file an appeal to court shall be deemed to have waived any and all objections to the administrative hearing officer's decision. The court trial shall be de novo.
1) The City Council may approve the bill as submitted
2) The City Council may choose to reject the ordinance and provide direction to the City Manager.
"I move to approve Bill No. 2688 as submitted by Staff."
Bill No. 2688 Civil Citation.docx
Bill No. 2688 Civil Citation.pdf
Bill No 2688 Civil Citation with proposed 1-26-15 change.pdf