By Joe Capozzi
Town commissioners have endorsed a plan to enhance Ocean Ridge’s code enforcement procedures with a new approach aimed at encouraging voluntary compliance with the town code.
If the measure is passed on second reading in early 2022, the Code Enforcement section of the town code would be renamed the Community Standards section and would include a new option for residents and visitors to comply with common violations by paying a fine similar to a parking ticket.
“What we’re doing is trying to create some efficiencies and effectiveness,’’ Town Attorney Christy Goddeau said Dec. 6 before the Town Commission unanimously approved the plan on first reading.
The Community Standards officers would be able to issue citations for such common violations as overgrown grass and illegal parking.
“The citation would become a parking ticket and the person in violation can pay it, comply with the violation and that closes the matter,’’ she said. “This will alleviate need to go before a special magistrate for a hearing and will cut expenses for hearings and allow violations to proceed quickly.’’
Goddeau served with Town Manager Tracey Stevens, Police Chief Richard Jones and Building Official Durrani Guy on a committee that drafted the changes after “limitations that were found through enforcement of some recent cases,’’ according to a memo.
Warnings issued by the Community Standards officers will be tracked by the Police Department. Violators will be given a chance to correct violations before enforcement actions proceed.
“It is streamlining not only for residents but for the town and hopefully reducing costs of bringing someone into compliance,’’ Mayor Kristine de Haseth said of the process. “It gives them the opportunity to just pay a ticket rather than have to pay to go in front of a magistrate.’’
A fee schedule for violations will be presented before the commission takes a final vote on the plan.
“Code enforcement is not going away. Rather than take enforcement action against a resident, we want to see voluntary compliance,” Chief Jones said.
“The words ‘code enforcement’ just sounds like you are targeting enforcement rather than working with the community to meet the standards that have been developed by the community,” he said.
“I think it’s a great idea,’’ Vice Mayor Susan Hurlburt said.
In other business:
• Although construction has begun on a new marina at Ocean Inlet Park, plans to reroute the dredging pipeline at the park will be delayed again for nearly a year because of contractual and permitting issues, Stevens said. Palm Beach County, which is in charge of the so-called jack and bore project, is now targeting the work next winter from November 2022 to February 2023.
• The commission approved a $31,000 contract with Engenuity Group for a survey of the underground utility pipes in town. The survey, to be paid for with federal American Rescue Plan Act money, may take up to two months to complete. But it’s a necessary first step before Ocean Ridge can replace aging potable water pipes on the north end of town.
Discussion about that contract prompted Commissioner Martin Wiescholek to ask the town to consider installing new sewer pipes when the water pipes are replaced. That way, he said the town could avoid having to tear up the road again in five or 10 years. The town is preparing to convert from septic to sewer, but that project is years away.
“I wish we could be more proactive about the septic-to-sewer conversion and start the progress of at least getting our engineering in place so we know what we can do and if we have these projects, stick a pipe into the ground we don’t have to open those roads a second time. It’s cost saving,’’ he said.
• Commissioners approved a $65,551 contract with Enterprise Fleet Management to lease four cars for town use, three for the Police Department and one for the Building Department.