Ellisville City Hall

Ellisville City Hall

After discussing the topic in full during the Nov. 17 Ellisville City Council work session and meeting, a decision has been made to significantly change the city’s code enforcement policies.

Per City Manager Bill Schwer, Ellisville formerly mailed multiple 7-day, 14-day and 30-day violation notices to residents whose offenses could range from minor to major. Those notices would be followed by a citation if the issue remained unresolved. Now, a citation will be issued upon an in-person inspection by a code enforcement officer. It will include an insert with directions on how to comply to avoid or at least lessen prosecution or sentence.

Schwer added that, at the discretion of the officer, if a minor violation is not resolved within a seven-day period, the homeowner could face a court date as listed on the citation. If the violation has been resolved, the officer can be contacted for re-inspection to avoid a first-offense ticket.

“It’s the council’s wish to more aggressively enforce certain policies and in doing so, eliminate the time frame between a violation being observed and the violator being given notice or charged,” City Attorney George Restovich said. “It affords the individual an opportunity to take care of a problem within the time frame and not be prosecuted on a first offense. On second offenses, they would be prosecuted, but depending on whether or not they abate in time will determine the type of sentence they receive.”

Restovich added that major violations would allow 30-day notices and that would be included in the ticket or insert. Those would involve major property issues that require a contractor. If the offense is corrected on a first violation, the homeowner would not have to go to court. However, for a subsequent second violation, they would be prosecuted but with some leniency if abated. If not, a summons would follow.

Council member Mick Cahill (District 2) expressed concerns that the pandemic and supply chain issues have made it nearly impossible to get a good contractor to one’s home within 30 days.

“Would we have some type of provision if a person had signed a contract, let’s say if they need their siding redone? They don’t take a fly-by-night to come in there. They would hire a decent company that might say they’re out three months before they can get to that house. Would there be lenience on that, or what comes of that?” Cahill asked. “I just want to make sure we’re not creating a nightmare for homeowners we represent by ticketing them hundreds of dollars because the contractor can’t make it because of an overflow of business going on right now.”

Schwer said the officer would need a signed contract that includes a start date within a reasonable amount of time that could possibly delay the court proceedings. Restovich agreed there is some discretion, and there will be greater leniency for anybody who shows a willingness and desire to abate the situation as quickly as possible. 

“I would encourage the council not to try to legislate which activities get what time frames,” council member Rob Compton (District 1) said. “I’d leave that flexibility up to the code enforcement officer just because that relationship between the code enforcement officer and the resident is pretty crucial in getting things taken care of. That would get more done than fines.”  

Those details led to unanimous passage of a bill on new code enforcement policies and a resolution regarding specific duty changes for Ellisville’s code enforcement officers.

Per an inquiry from council member Vince McGrath (District 1), if the homeowner cannot be found at the initial contact, a notice will be sent by registered mail.

“I do like that this creates some ability for a little common sense leniency for a first-time offender,” Mayor Mike Roemerman said.  “Obviously, if we have repeat offenders, we’re not going to be as flexible.  That’s one of our goals and I think this allows for that. I also like giving our code enforcement officers some additional responsibilities to get these things moving and potentially abated quicker. I think the ticketing system alone is going to let people know that it’s serious, and maybe they won’t drag their feet as much.”