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Posted on: December 11, 2019

Petersburg Intensifies Code Enforcement Throughout the Community

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City of Petersburg Intensifies Code Enforcement throughout the Community


Petersburg, Virginia:  During the December 10th City Council Meeting, Petersburg City Council enhanced the City’s current Code Enforcement tools by unanimously adopting the Civil Penalties Ordinance. This amended ordinance equips Petersburg’s Code Enforcement team with the ability to use civil penalties, as well as criminal proceedings, to correct property maintenance violations. 


City Councilman Charlie Cuthbert (Ward 4) worked closely with staff during the development process for the Civil Penalties Program and made the motion to adopt the ordinance.  


“I believe this program is important to the City of Petersburg because it gives City staff another tool to use to eliminate blight, build our neighborhoods, and strengthen our tax base, “said Councilman Cuthbert. “I salute Deputy City Manager, Lionel Lyons; Assistant to the City Manager, Frank Poulin; Building Maintenance Inspector, Brad Shupp; Director of Planning, Michelle Peters; and City Attorney, Anthony Williams for working as a team to create this civil penalty procedure.” 


Through the passing of the Civil Penalties Ordinance, code officers can more effectively take enforcement action on absentee landlords. This will also allow for a smother process in handling cases where the property owner has passed away or moved without providing an address update to the City.

The reasoning for the updated ordinance stems from the need to provide enforcement officers with a broader reach and an updated method to bring properties into compliance, which was more difficult to achieve with past resources and practices. 


Prior to adoption of the Civil Penalties Ordinance, the only means by which inspectors could address a dilapidated property was the issuance of a criminal summons on the owner of record, and these summonses require that the property owner be served personally. The benefit of civil penalties is there is no requirement for the owners to be served personally within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through Virginia’s “Long Arm Statute,” owners who reside out of state may be served and required to account for their properties or face default judgment.  


Additionally, Courts will have the ability to issue default judgment for cases where a property owner fails to appear in Court after receiving service pursuant to civil requirements. In other words, an owner who ignores a notice of violation can have civil penalties levied against them and their property which, if unpaid, may become a lien against the property and be collected in the same manner as a tax (including a delinquent tax sale if it remains unpaid for the required time period). If a property incurs multiple violations, the owner can be cited individually for each violation which could result in hefty fines. 


In the wake of the adoption of the Civil Penalties Ordinance, the Code Enforcement Department has already issued twenty-five new Notices of Violation. City Officials remain optimistic that property owners will recognize that the City’s concerted efforts to implement this program to improve the safety and quality of housing stock throughout the City.  


Included in these recent efforts are a series of ten (10) dilapidated “burned out” structures that have been determined to constitute a danger to public health, safety, or welfare and for which Notices for Demolition or Repair have been issued earlier this month.  It is anticipated that these properties will either be demolished by the City or repaired or demolished by the property owners by February of 2020.  


The goal for this amended ordinance is to compel property owners with violations to abate them sooner rather than later. In support of the push for stronger code enforcement throughout the City, City Administration plans to hire additional code enforcement personnel, obtain up-to-date equipment, and increase efficiency by establishing standardized processes.

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