Unshoveled snowy sidewalks, tall grass and trash cans set out too early would likely trigger the bulk of tickets issued under a proposed York City enforcement strategy.
The York City Council is considering the proposal, called the Neighborhood Improvement Ordinance, designed to tackle the city's trash and property-maintenance problems.
The new system would give authorized enforcement officers the ability to see a violation, issue a $25 ticket and — hopefully — get the violation resolved immediately.
The new ordinance would circumvent the need for summary citations, which often carry $100 minimum fines and sometimes require appellate hearings at district magistrate offices.
Instead, the city's "hearing officer" would have the authority to deny, uphold or modify the violation ticket.
Steve Buffington, the city's building-code official, said the mayor would choose a current employee to handle that responsibility.
The change: Under the current law, failing to maintain grass below 10 inches, for example, would result in a summary citation and a $100 minimum fine, Buffington said.
"In essence, this is going to give people a break," he said. "With that $25 slap on the wrist, so to speak, the hope is that it's going to encourage people to remember that they do need to comply with our ordinances. Honestly, I don't believe there's anything in that ordinance that a reasonable adult wouldn't understand is not the right thing to do."
The ticketing idea would also negate the need for violation notices, Buffington said.
Under the current system, "It's not worth the inspector's time or energy to write the notice because the problem has gone away before the notice even gets to that person," he said. "In this case, we're notifying them, but the cost of that notification is a $25 ticket."
The proposal is modeled on successful initiatives in other cities.
While he understands that some people may be upset at the idea of enhanced enforcement, Buffington said the goal of the new ordinance is to be more efficient — but not necessarily more aggressive.
People who are spotted deliberately littering could be ticketed, he said. However, inspectors wouldn't ticket a child who accidentally dropped a candy wrapper, Buffington said.
Fine amounts: For first and second offenses, officers would issue $25 tickets. After that, the cost of a violation starts to increase. For example, a third offense within 12 months would result in a $150 ticket.
People who get a ticket would have 10 days to pay the fine or request a hearing. Failing to pay or request a hearing within 10 days could result in a higher fine.
After 20 days, the ticket would become a citation, and the case would be forwarded to the court system.
All of the violations subject to the proposed enforcement system are already illegal.
"Everybody wants a clean city. They don't want trash and debris in their neighborhoods. And this is a tool that we're going to use to try and help with that," Buffington said.
Buffington said he hopes to implement the new system in the fall, assuming the council approves the new ordinance.
The council will introduce the proposal at its Tuesday meeting and could vote on the ordinance as soon as July 15.
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.