Sumter County Council continues code enforcement discussion

Posted 10/12/18

Sumter County Council continued its discussion of giving selected code enforcement officers the authority to issue courtesy summons during its meeting on Tuesday.

Members question the need of zoning officials in code enforcement

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Sumter County Council continues code enforcement discussion


Sumter County Council members questioned the need of zoning officials in code enforcement and continued the discussion of a resolution at their meeting on Tuesday.

Reading: Resolution, only one vote is required

Agenda item: A resolution to appoint and commission code enforcement officers for the proper security, general welfare and convenience of Sumter County.

Background: This resolution relates to the ordinance that gives county council the authority to appoint code enforcement officers to write courtesy summons for code violations.

The resolution names three Sumter Building Department employees and five Sumter Planning Commission employees who could be chosen for those positions. This planning commission is different from the nine-member planning commission whose members are elected by Sumter city and county councils.

Each person named has been vetted by the county administrator, Sumter County Attorney Johnathan Bryan said.

Discussion: Councilman Gene Baten asked if the code enforcement officers would receive training on how to issue courtesy summons, and Bryan responded he would make sure the officers understand the significance of making sure all evidence is in place before any summons are written.

Vice chairman Jimmy Byrd asked why zoning officials were added to the list of names when the issue initially only applied to building department employees. He said he was not aware that zoning officials and zoning violations would be added to the list until he saw the names displayed during the meeting on Tuesday, though he could have been mistaken.

Chairman Jim McCain and councilman Charles Edens also raised the same concern.

Building department officials would deal with building code violations, and planning commission officials would presumably handle zoning standard violations.

Byrd also asked how often zoning standards are violated to warrant the addition of zoning officials to the list.

The zoning administrator asked that zoning officials be given the authority to write courtesy summons for violations of the county zoning and development standards, Bryan said.

While speaking with Sumter Planning Department Director George McGregor before Tuesday's meeting, Bryan said he explained that he intended to be involved in the violation reporting process early on so a record of it is well documented.

In the nearly 12 years he has been with the county, Bryan said he has had two zoning violation cases.

Five people for two cases in 10 years is overkill, Byrd said.

"That's a very legitimate concern," said Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon. He added that including the planning commission has been a part of the whole process.

During council's meeting on Sept. 11, Bryan said building and planning department directors could recommend code enforcement officers to the county administrator who would recommend code enforcement officers to council after evaluation. He also said the code enforcement officers chosen "would be employees of either the building department or the planning commission" prior to first reading of the related ordinance during that same meeting.

Mixon suggested that McGregor have an opportunity to give examples of how zoning code officers could be used in the county. McGregor left the meeting before council reached this agenda item.

Building department director Steve Campbell previously spoke to council because violations were the most flagrant for that department, he said.

Vote: Deferment - Councilwoman Vivian Fleming-McGhaney was absent from council's meeting.