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Posted by: thepinetree on 07/09/2018 06:48 PM Updated by: thepinetree on 07/09/2018 06:48 PM
Expires: 01/01/2023 12:00 AM

Property Rights & Abuse Concerns about Chapter 8.06 Proposed Rewrite Tuesday ~ By Colleen Platt

San Andreas, CA...Dear Calaveras County Board of Supervisors, Please seriously consider & question the proposed rewrite of county code Chapter 8.06 ‘Property Maintenance & Code Enforcement’, to be heard at your Board Meeting Tuesday. It sets off too many red flags. The public is legitimately upset & fearful about the expanded code enforcement powers, possibility of selective enforcement of county code, potential for abuse of power by county employees, likelihood of unknown & excessive fees and fines piling up for minor infractions and small unpermitted structures, lack of due process and threats to property rights in summary abatements and summary fines, and more.

It is clear from the preliminary 2018 budget hearings that the Calaveras County budget has a serious long-term structural deficit. Reading the proposed rewrite of Ch. 8.06, it seems like the County is trying to balance part of its deficit unfairly on the backs of its citizens, by allowing immediate and unknown and/or excessive fees and fines to be imposed upon unsuspecting residents. It is not good policy to try to pay for the entire code enforcement program by fining county residents, as is stated in the new Chapter (pg. 15):

8.06.415 Fees

A. Intent. It is the intent of the Board of Supervisors that the Department of Code Compliance, to the extent allowable under applicable law, maximize cost recovery associated with enforcement of the County Code and State statutes incorporated herein, and that the expense of administering a code compliance program be borne by those who are responsible for code violations and associated nuisances.

This is an undue burden. The Chapter 8.06 code rewrite goes overboard, is not well-considered, and is not in the best interests of residents. It imposes unknown administrative costs and fees immediately on residents issued a notice of violation (pg.15, 8.06.415 B.-D.). There is no Fee Schedule posted on the code compliance website (as stated in 8.06.415 G.). Chapter 8.06 appears to be a money-making scheme at the expense of property owners and their civil rights.

At the total discretion of public works and code compliance employees, on the basis of a personal judgment of risks to public health & safety, they can order “Summary Abatement’ of a perceived violation. They can order residents to vacate the premises, they can order the premises and site to be razed, and they can impose immediate and severe fines, without any issuance of a Notice of Violation. (pg.21, 8.06.560, 8.06.565) How is this just? Isn’t this a violation of civil and property rights?

Please read the proposed code revisions very carefully, and think about the consequences to county residents. Please do not authorize the current version of the Chapter 8.06 rewrite. Below is a brief summary of many, but not all, sections of concern*.

*Chapter 8.06 Sections of Concern & Questions

1) Definitions. (pg 4) (2) duplicate/ conflicting Definitions for “Commercial Cannabis Activity”. Under the first definition, growing 1-6 plants legally would be “commercial cannabis cultivation”, subject to citation, abatement and fines. The second definition farther down is clearer. Please eliminate the duplicate definitions, and clarify what is and is not commercial cannabis activity.

2) Courtesy Notices (pg 12, 8.06.305). This may be a good idea, but how will this be implemented? There is no guidance as to when Courtesy Notices will be issued by county employees, or which code violations might qualify. Building Dept. and Code Compliance employees have complete discretion whether to issue a courtesy notice, or whether to issue a notice of violation and fines. “Public health, safety, and welfare” is the only criteria given, but that is subject to interpretation. No other guidance is given when a courtesy notice is appropriate or not. Without clear guidance, who knows if or how Courtesy Notices will be issued?

3) Fees (pg. 15, 8.06.415 Fees). The intent stated is to charge violators the maximum amount of fees allowed under law, but the amount of these fees is not identified. There is no Fee Schedule included or posted online, as required. People will be liable for Case Management Fees, Inspection Fees, Standby and Security Fees, Appeals Fees, Attorneys Fees, and Administrative Fines. This is an excessive and undue burden for someone issued a Notice of Violation, for possibly a minor infraction. The County is aware that there are many code violations that have been going on for decades, such as the use of shipping containers for long-term storage, but, “Historically, the County has not routinely enforced these provisions.” (from ‘Shipping Container Requirements”, Calaveras County Building Department, 6/13/2018). Is the County going to start imposing all these fees and fines on all infractions, all existing small, unpermitted structures, and all users of shipping containers for storage, including the County’s use of shipping containers?

4) Summary Abatement (pg 21, 8.06.560). Where the building/code employee determines that there is an “immediate threat to public health and safety” that “requires immediate correction or elimination”, ‘Summary Abatement’ gives building/code compliance officers and staff the authority to order people to vacate the premises and raze the building or site, without issuing a Notice of Violation or citation. This seems like excessive authority and police powers given to building dept. / code compliance employees. Plus, is this a possible violation of civil or property rights, with no citation being issued?

5) Summary Assessment of Fines (pg. 21, 8.06.565). As above, in the judgment of a building employee, if there is a serious code violation or public nuisance that poses an immediate danger, no time period is needed prior to abating the perceived violation and assessing big fines on the property owner. The fine for a summary abatement violation is $250 per violation. Strangely, if the summary abatement involves cannabis eradication, each cannabis plant is a separate violation and $250 fine. How is it just to levee excessive fines on people, without notice, and without issuing a notice or citation?

6) Conflict Within Code. Both 4) and 5) above--Summary Abatement and Summary Assessment sections--contradict section “8.06.700 - Alternative Notice of Violation, Citation, and procedure for violations related to unlawful Commercial Cannabis Cultivation.” (pg 26), which allows cannabis abatement within 10 days of notification of violation; after that, fines are $1,000/day. Which section applies to cannabis violations, and when???

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