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Hall targets code violators; some complain
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Hall County Code Enforcement has stepped up its efforts to get residents to clean up junk cars, litter and other eye sores in neighborhoods across the county. This abandoned house on Petes Drive has several code violations. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Since forming the Public Safety Department, Hall County has seen many code enforcement success stories.

The department houses the freshly named county marshals, who have stepped up county code enforcement over the past few months.

Most are pleased with the new efforts, though some of the county residents affected by the enforcement are not.

Commissioner Bobby Banks said he has heard a few complaints but the majority of people are happy to see neighborhoods getting cleaned up.

A resident in his district, whose failing septic tank leaked sewage above ground, recently worked with Code Enforcement to fix the problem.

"I’d rather have one person mad at me than 100," Banks said. "All the neighbors are happy now."

Code Enforcement Supervisor André Niles said most code issues are solved through talking to residents and telling them what on their property is violating county code.

"We start with going out and meeting people and getting people to know what we do and why we’re on their property," Niles said. "Citation is the last resort we use."

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 15, Code Enforcement investigated 994 violations, compared with 716 in the same time period in 2008.

Of this year’s violations, just 117 citations were issued, the majority for the storage of junk.

"We spend more time getting people to comply than we ever do writing citations," Niles said.

Throughout the year, code enforcement has performed sweeps in a number of areas that have been identified with code enforcement issues, such as litter, junk cars or loose animals.

Commissioner Ashley Bell said sweeps in his district have been very successful.

"The massive change I’ve seen in my district is the voluntary compliance," Bell said.

One of the areas the county has concentrated on is Petes Drive. The county has heard complaints over the years from property owners that a junk yard and abandoned structures on the road are hurting their property values.

At the end of the winding street, located off of Price Road, sits the junk yard. Many of the cars have been removed due to code enforcement efforts, but many more vehicles still sit around the large property, surrounding the home like a fortress.

David Browning, who lives near the entrance to Petes Drive, said the junk yard doesn’t concern him because it is at the bottom of the dead-end street.

"Why should they mind?" Browning said. "If you go down this road you ain’t going nowhere."

Most Petes Drive residents are related and have been living on the property for decades.

Lula Mae Thomas, 81, is the matriarch of the family that owns the majority of Petes Drive. Her son runs the junk yard and she said she isn’t happy with what the county is trying to do to clean up the area.

"I don’t like it worth a flip," Thomas said. "He’s cleaned it up. That hurt him real bad on his business."

Some neighbors think the county has no place on their street.

Petes Drive resident Tina Neal said she has no problem with the junk yard.

"It’s all on their land. They’ve never messed with us," Neal said. "If you’re not able to do what you want on your own property, why own land?"

She said she thinks the county shouldn’t worry about people’s property unless it presents a danger to the community.

"It may not be the best land, it may not be the richest part of town," Neal said. "But they’ve got a right to live the way they want to."

Bell said the commission sees code enforcement as something that benefits the whole community rather than something that hurts individual property owners.

"We’re trying to clean up our neighborhoods and we’re going to make it a priority. It’s not just a county commission priority, it’s a community priority," Bell said. "They don’t owe it to me as a commissioner or to Mr. Niles as an officer. They owe it to their neighbors to want to respect where they live so that other people can respect it and they can get the full value of their property and enjoyment and use of their property."

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