There is a new system in place to handle code violators in Mancos.
Town Administrator Andrea Phillips briefed the town board last week on the new administrative citation process, which establishes a framework to help gain compliance from land-use code offenders.
Complaints are to be made in writing through the town's online code violation notice form. A town staff person is required to investigate, and an inspection is scheduled within 48 hours.
"This comes as a follow-up to three ordinances the board passed this spring, which essentially decriminalized made nuisance violations and land-use violations such as junk vehicles and high grass and weeds not a criminal violation. Under our old process, they could potentially have gotten a jury trial, gone to jail, so we wanted to create a different process to get compliance on some of these code issues," said Phillips.
In September 2014, erosion-control products manufacturer Western Excelsior was issued citations for air and water pollution late last year. The Mancos Town Board directed Phillips to draft a letter giving Western Excelsior 30 days to clean up its act or be fined up to $1,000 for each violation. The company decided to move toward a jury trial, disputing the town's jurisdictional authority. The case was eventually dropped in January.
This spring, the town board passed three ordinances that changed code violations within town limits from criminal infractions eligible for costly jury trials, to civil infractions that could go through an Administrative Hearing Process.
The new citation process is lengthy, and gives those found in violation of code 30 days from their first "friendly code reminder letter" to get into compliance. If in 30 days the violation still isn't taken care of, another letter is sent, giving the violator an additional 30 days to come into compliance. If after a third inspection is done, and compliance still hasn't been attained, a notice of violation is sent or delivered as a final notice. If a violation is found after the fourth inspection, an administrative citation can be issued by the Mancos marshal or administrator. From there an administrative hearing officer will determine the party's guilt or innocence. The hearing officer can assess fines, or the party can appeal.
Phillips noted that for weed and abandoned-vehicle violations, inspectors will stay sin the public right-of-way and will cite only what's visible from the front yard.
"We're not going in between lot lines," she said, referencing a report in the Cortez Journal that told the story of an angry property owner who criticized the city inspector for taking photographs of alleged code violations in his gated backyard. "I know it does seem like a lengthy process, but we're not trying to just go out and slap citations on people. We really just want to work with people and get them into compliance."