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help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Posted by rosiew 7 GA (rosemarywalsh@bellsouth.net) on
Fri, Sep 2, 11 at 17:52

Just got the agenda items for my city's next City Council work session. I hope you can help me explain to them how wrong this would be if enforced.

"Rodents/insects, and pests

All property shall be maintained so as not to allow, create or be conducive to the infestation, harboring, breeding of rats, flies, mosquitos, roaches, silverfish, or other rodents or insects. Further, all property shall be maintained so as not to allow, create, or be conducive to a nest or colony of stinging insects, such as yellow jackets, hornets, bees, wasps, or other similar pests that are or would create a public safety hazard or public nuisance. A public safety hazard shall include a threat of stinging to any person on any public street, sidewalk, parking lot, or to any person on adjacent private property."

Need your help pronto. The meeting is next Tuesday evening. I certainly have thoughts on this,but want you to share yours.

Many thanks, Rosie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Get assistance from folks who know more about those sort of things than does your city council --

Health Dept
Wildlife professionals

Frankly I don't know if any one can manage property to avoid yellowjacket nests. But one can certainly manage a yellowjacket nest that has potential to harm citizens passing by.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

I think it is directed towards people who let their lots become a jungle of weeds literally. However, sometimes these laws and ordinances can be unintended consequences. By itself, I think the intent is okay, to prevent blight. I am not sure if the intention is something else.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

I think I'm missing something here. Why do you find this so upsetting? I can certainly see that if carried to an absurd extreme it is anti-garden, and I hope that some public comments in the hearing address that, but who wants rats, roaches, etc. in their yard? Or their neighbor's yard? If you are, however, a bee-keeper, you should probably get a lawyer.

Assuming you copied the whole thing to post here, it is written quite vaguely. What if you have a puddle in your yard and mosquitoes breed there? Do you get fined? Reprimanded? Spanked? What if despite all your best efforts you see rats in your yard? Do you have to prove that they come from next door? If hornets build a nest in the top of a tree on your property, do you have to get it down? How the heck can you prevent that?
I bet that there is someone in your town whose property is a disgrace and who won't clean it up, and the town government, in its infinite wisdom, is trying to make him or her get to work.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

If this is enforced selectively, ie. only against people that allow their property to become unkemp, it could be deemed unconstitutional because the people charged with enforcing it are allowed too much latitude. This is like a "weed" ordinance that prohibits vegetative growth over 8 inches tall.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Really appreciate these responses.

lsanto: I copied the text word for word. The next section explained the steps Code Enforcement can take.

We have ordinances that protect state waters that are on personal property which require undisturbed buffers. These buffers along waterways are natural breeding grounds for rats, for example.

It is highly unlikely that there will be public comments other than mine. This is a wonderful town but public apathy exists.

Will add more as I get my thoughts together better.

There are properties which are unsightly. Generally Code Enforcement comes in when a complaint is filed.

Back soon, and thanks, Rosie


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Trying to convert the city's PDF file to a word doc - asked a neighbor for help, which I'll get when he's up and about.

My city is a patchwork of city property mixed with (unincorporated) county land, which adds a new wrinkle re enforcement.

Meanwhile, lsanti asked "Why do you find this so upsetting?" I'm looking at worst case here, having people think they have to kill insect populations indiscriminately. There's enough of that going on already with the lawn care companies pumping out their poisons.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Relax. This is a typical poorly-done try at nuisance ordinance wording. It could be worded more precisely but I'm not sure what all the hand-flapping is about.

I'd go to the meeting, stay calm and not go on and on and on and on and on about something and state clearly and succinctly that the passages:

o All property shall be maintained so as not to allow, create or be conducive to the infestation, harboring, breeding of rats, flies, mosquitos, roaches, silverfish, or other rodents or insects.
[ALL insects?! Really? no ants? Please.]

o Further, all property shall be maintained so as not to allow, create, or be conducive to a nest or colony of stinging insects, such as yellow jackets, hornets, bees, wasps, or other similar pests that are or would create a public safety hazard or public nuisance.[no bees? You don't want agriculture in your area? Why not? Do you want to weaken your community? Why?]

are overly vague and unenforceable. They need to have staff/firm go back and actually spend some time on the proposed ordinance and re-word, then give them to the city attorney before coming back for consideration.

If this is staff wording, it is poorly written. If it is by a firm, they should withhold further payment until quality work per contract is performed.

So, when you speak. Do not go off-topic and speak for 10 minutes. Keep it to three minutes. To the point. Respectful. Answer questions directly and to the point and do not go off topic and on and on and on about something not germane to the ordinance (or germane to the ordinance for that matter).

I am an urban planner by (one) trade. If you want to be ignored, go off-topic, prattle on about killing insect populations indiscriminately, lawn companies and their poison, etc. The point is that the proposed ordinance is a cr*ppy piece of work, cannot be enforced, and needs to be re-worded. Period. End of story. Nothing else.

Dan


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

dan_staley, you have made my day. I appreciate everyone's contributions, but you have helped me direct myself in a most positive way. I believe this is staff written, but can't swear to that. No prattling from this old gal - nuh uh, just concise verbage. Will report back after the work session.

I strongly respect my city's employees and elected officials. Sometimes efforts are misguided. Believe this is a good example.

Woohoo, Rosie


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

...or insects... Butterflies are insects. That should be more than enough ammunition against that phrase.

Further, all property shall be maintained so as not to allow, create, or be conducive to a nest or colony of stinging insects, such as yellow jackets, hornets, bees, wasps, or other similar pests... Everyone would have to cut down all the trees, just to start.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

purpleinopp, you nailed it! In the notes I've taken to direct to Council, I used Dan Staley's

"ALL INSECTS?? Really? No ants? (and I added butterflies).

An aside, I wish I knew the names of all my butterflies, but I've left my now raggedy zinnias - at least a few dozen big plants - in the garden because I love love love the constant movement of the butterflies and the funny way the stems bend and quiver when one of the goldfinches comes to feed on the seedheads. Have maybe 20 finches every day.

I've so appreciate support from y'all. Hopefully can report a favorable outcome after tomorrow evening's mtg.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

I don't see the problem with wasps either. Take this from someone who had an intense wasp phobia (and it still exists, to some extent). Wasps do a lot of good, preying on caterpillars and other crop pests. Or perhaps, Canadian wasps are more polite, because I've never been stung ;)


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

I keep a big old Siberian Kale in my back yard, a natural magnet for the Cabbage Moth and its larvae munching on the leaves. I get to watch the wasps hunting the larger catepillars, hauling them off to nests and to be hosts for wasp eggs and larvae.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Forgot to ask if they intend to allow exceptions for bee keeping or if anyone keeping bees in the area would suddenly become criminals?

Bees are pretty important critters, although I can understand the need to relocate a hive if it is too close to people. Verbiage like this makes them sound like pests. If not for bees, there would be pandemic starvation. I wouldn't go into all this at the meeting, but indicate that it leaves uncertainty regarding the issue of bee keeping.


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still need wording advice but it will be changed

Had a very positive response last night. Now looking for examples of ordinances as a substitute.

There is a need for a Public Health Hazard/Public Nuisance Ordinance. City Attorneys supplied the one in question, and said it was very difficult finding it. Told one of the attorneys that I'd help finding one that is more specific

purpleinopp, bee keeping was brought up and will also be addressed.

Who can suggest a way to find a comprehensive, well written ordinance that covers this??

I thank you again for helping me get to this point.
Rosie


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No need for ordinances

City Attorney has sent revised proposed ordinance to M&C and copy to me.

Learned the back-story which is that a very large hornet's nest was built on side of house, near other homes. The house wasn't occupied/former owner had left the state. City received complaints, local TV news contacted, citizens got very upset, etc. With passage of an ordinance the City will be able to take steps in a timely fashion, I believe.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Who can suggest a way to find a comprehensive, well written ordinance that covers this?? May I ask what you mean by comprehensive? If the problem is a hornet nest, why does the ordinance need to include anything else? Can there not be an ordinance against hornets in particular which gives the city the right to have it removed - and probably bill the homeowner? Was there no existing "dangerous wildlife" or "vermin" law to give the city the right to handle the problem? I don't understand what was stopping them.

Where I live, somebody in the neighborhood would have just gotten rid of it, no fanfare or discussion or call to the city needed.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Sounds like an ordinance is needed for abandoned houses, rather than every house in the city.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Had a very positive response last night. Now looking for examples of ordinances as a substitute.

Help us understand why you are doing the City Planner's job for them? Simply read the revision and make comments.

Dan


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

In response to Dan's query "Help us understand why you are doing the City Planner's job for them? Simply read the revision and make comments."

Simple answer: Attorney said he hadn't been able to find ordinances specific to this. I said I'd try to help.

In response to purpleinopp: The existing vermin/whatever else ordinance didn't cover this.

Again, appreciate your thoughts/input.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

I've looked at the municipal codes for my town and a couple of nearby towns to see what we've got in effect. Most of the rules deal with upkeep of the property - lawns mowed, no rusty cars on blocks in the front yard, and so on - with rules that say if you won't fix it, the town will, and will bill you for it. Looking a little further, I found what seems like every municipality in NJ has adopted the NJ Public Nuisance Code of 1953, which contains this:

"It is unlawful, and shall be a public nuisance, for any person [...]To interfere or annoy the comfort or general well being of the inhabitants of this borough;"

and I think that this is what the towns use to take care of hornets' nests, rats by the birdfeeders, and 6 inches of dog poop in the back yard. Most of the nuisance rule that I could find dealt with noise and general mayhem (I like this one:"To revel, quarrel, fight, brawl or otherwise engage in any disorderly conduct so as to disturb the public peace and quiet") but the "general well-being" one is broad enough to cover what your town is looking for. I'd be surprised if it's not already hidden in the municipal codes already.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Attorney said he hadn't been able to find ordinances specific to this.

Wow. That is unacceptable. Its a nuisance ordinance. Every town has one. The planner can take 45 minutes to search through 10 surrounding ordinances to find one close enough to tweak to give to the lawyer. It is an utterly basic part of the job.

Don't let them snow you. Bill the city for your time.

Dan


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

The existing vermin/whatever else ordinance didn't cover this. I think you've found the problem. Have you been able to read that?

Also agreed with borderbarb's point about abandoned buildings although I'm partial in regard to that subject at the moment. I've got one next to me due to a fire and it looks like I'm going to need to investigate my options for complaining/what can be done.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

purpleinopp, didn't read the existing part of the code. For some reason I have a hard time locating what I want within the vastness of our code.

Best on getting action about the fire-gutted home by you. Often things like this just get forgotten. Here a lot of the code enforcement is done because a citizen has asked for help. I hope your city or municipality is responsive to you.

lisanti, thanks for taking the time to look at some of the NJ codes! And love the example of dealing with noise and general mayhem. Could have been cited for that when we lived in Basking Ridge and had the entire HS band for swim parties - although honesty, the kids were great and reported to us that 'some uninvited/unknowns had decided our place was party central for them too'.

Dan, I won't be billing my city. Love this place and feel that citizen involvement is both welcome and appreciated, and also considered helpful. And apparently nearby cities haven't put this in their codes or the city attorney would have found it. He's no slouch. City Planner wasn't involved.

May not be able to attend Council mtg. on Monday cuz I have to have anesthesia that day for a procedure. Will communicate my thoughts though, probably via a note to the Mayor.

Rosie


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Since I was looking up my city's laws regarding the burned house and weeds next door, I found this in the "health and sanitation" section:

It shall be unlawful for any person to keep on such person's premises, within the corporate limits or police jurisdiction of the city any hives for the storage of honey or where bees live or breed.

Apparently bee keeping is not allowed in the city limits.

Besides this, the only thing I found that could have been used for your situation (if the laws of my city were the same as yours) was this:

(The city has the right)...to move or demolish buildings and structures, or parts of buildings and structures, party walls and foundations, when the same are found by the governing body of the city to be unsafe to the extent of being a public nuisance from any cause. I don't know if harboring a hornet nest would constitute an unsafe structure in this context or not.

I also found specific and numerous laws about dogs, cats, livestock. There was also an article in the paper about how last week's city council resulted in the passing of an ordinance which would allow for a $325 fine for having mowed grass on the street in front of your house. So apparently it's not uncommon to have a very specific law to address a very specific issue. None of that other vague wording is needed.

Good luck with your procedure and I hope you have a great (hornet-free) weekend!


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Thought I'd share this TV video I found. This was at a nice house in a pleasant neighborhood, certainly empty but not in disrepair except for the crummy grass.

Also, purple, I'm going to ask if we have anything about the grass, specifically. I know many of the storm sewers have a sign painted on them, something about illegal to blow clippings. This would be enforceable only if witnessed, but certainly could be. Mow-blow and go crew on next street disregard this. Hmmmm.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

Here is a link that might be useful: News coverage about hornet nest.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Rosie, I think it's terrific that you have taken this on. And in response to Dan's question about why you should do their job for the city, sometimes that is the only way to get the result you're after. When I was on our planning board I would often do the research to hand to the lawyer when specific situations arose. I cared a lot more than a paid consultant would, and I had more time, as well.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Riverfarm, I so agree with you. I've seen many good things happen here because of citizen involvement and because the City is open to hearing what others think, what they'd like to see happen. I've been on our Planning Commission for 4 1/2 years, have a much better understanding of the processes, etc. I only wish there was more citizen participation.

Again, thanks everyone.
Rosie


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Double ditto about citizen participation. I've often pointed out to our local editor the discrepancy between what students [future citizens] are taught in school and what they observe in the local media. Sports has its own section of local paper, but one must hunt and peck to find where and when local boards, councils, and agencies hold regular meetings. Sorry for the off-topic rant ... hit a sore spot ... trying to get local folks to become habituated to board/council - watching, is like pulling teeth. AAAARGH!


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Its not about citizen participation, it is about - if the fact pattern is to be believed - the incompetence of staff to do one of the most basic, simplest tasks there is for the profession.

Every planner in this country and every other G20 nation can go find municipal code and assess its usefulness, and every planner in the job for, say, 2+ years can write code. Every municipal lawyer (if not from a firm contracting services) can do same.

Unacceptable. Double unacceptable if you're on PC and don't find this odd and then point out this incredible incompetence to the city. There are hundreds of planners out there ready and willing to move and take that job. Hundreds. Likely hundreds if not thousands of lawyers as well.

You are doing a disservice to the taxpayers by keeping the incompetence hidden.

Dan


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

Dan, please back off on this.


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

If incompetence is acceptable in your town, then fine. Good luck.

Dan


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

We have an ordinance that bee hives have to be kept 150' from adjacent living quarters. Don't know why 150' exactly, but its fine for where we are because all lots are 1+ acres. I would guess if the neighborhood is zero lot lines, then no one can keep a hive which is probably fair. So sounds like you have two choices: 1) you could do an ordinace similar to ours or 2) you could do a general nusiance pet/debris/sanitation ordinance.

Based on how your ordinance was originally written, I couldn't have a garden because there are always bees, wasps, and other insects out there!


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RE: help - need facts against proposed ordinance

optimistique,

The final wording of the ordinance has been approved, allowing bee keeping, no strict provisions on that. The primary goal was to have an ordinance that would allow the city to take action if needed. An example would be a yellow jacket nest near a street.

I've been rereading the book Insects and Gardens by Eric Grissell. You'd love this book. He speaks of an entomologist in the D.C. area who counted 1500 different species on his property.......my numbers may be wrong, could be a lot higher. Imagine! If I can find it, will add to this post.

Rosie
p.s. adding a link to the book.

Here is a link that might be useful: Insects and Gardens - read the reviews


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