Clerk works to get Garland up to code

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

September 2, 2013

Regular code enforcement in Garland began in earnest this past spring and town officials have sought to achieve compliance through education and communication —while many residents in violation have complied, still some are “absentee,” the town’s code enforcement officer said.

Through the endeavor, close to 30 properties have been cleaned up or otherwise brought into compliance with town regulations for safety and appearance. Deputy clerk Jennifer Richardson, who serves as code enforcement officer for Garland, updated the board on Care of Premises violations last month, and recently released her full report detailing the process and which properties are still works in progress.

When a possible violation is received, the property is investigated within a 24-72 hour period. If there is a violation, the property owner and tenant are notified by way of a certified violation letter and first class letter, respectively. Once the property owner complies, the case is closed. If he or she does not comply, property information is sent to the Garland Board of Commissioners for further action.

The property owner has approximately 15 days after receiving the certified letter to respond. If no response is received, follow up is done on the status of the certified letter. If the property is not in violation, and the owner says they never received the mass mailing letter sent in April, only the mass mailing letter will be mailed to inform and educate the customer, said Richardson. The case is then closed.

Of the 47 properties that were said to be in violation last month, 58 percent of property owners (27 of the 47) have complied, and 14 percent — 7 properties — are still a work in progress, she said. “Action needs to be taken on 8 percent,” stressed Richardson, noting four properties where the town needed to move forward on possible enforcement.

Those properties, detailed in Richardson’s report, include:

• brick house at Church Avenue/Fourth Street, across from Garland Community Center. A certified letter was never claimed and received back in the Garland town offices later in April.

• 534 Smith Ave. — trash was removed from the property in June, but dead limbs, trees and grass had not been cleared as of August. The property owner is interested in the town cleaning up property, Richardson said.

• vacant lot at Clinton Avenue and Leroy Street — a certified letter was unclaimed and received back at the Garland town offices in August.

• 402 5th St. — the mobile home needs to be underpinned. Property owner was sent a certified letter in April and notified town staff it was being worked on in June. As of the end of July, the mobile home had not been underpinned, Richardson said. “Insulation hanging under mobile home is a nuisance,” her report states. “Advised owner further action will be taken.”

Another structure, at 95 W. 2nd St., is in poor condition, she said, and owners want to know if the town would like the old Sunday School building, used in the past by the Methodist Church. They inquired as to whether the building could be a historic item at the Garland Rotary Park.

While there are a handful of violations still present in town, Richardson presented more than a dozen “before” and “after” pictures of properties that showed marked improvement, including the removal of junk and debris, freshly mowed grass where a lot was once overgrown and general landscaping and upkeep on lots that had a large amount of weeds and brush overtaking them.

A large improvement has been seen since April’s mass nuisance letter mailings, she said.

“Since that time, I have worked with about 47 pieces of properties that were in violation. Such violations were grass being extremely high and abandoned items such as junk materials in the yard,” Richardson said. “My goal is to work with the worst properties first and educate owners and tenants when they’re unaware of our ordinance.”

Richardson commended citizens with working to comply with the ordinance.

“There are a lot of absentee owners who have not visited their properties in a while, so trying to get into contact with these owners can be very challenging,” the deputy clerk said. “But overall, code enforcement has made a huge impact on the town of Garland.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at