Concerned that too many of their city's residences are becoming eyesores, Rockville officials have decided to redouble their efforts to crack down on homeowners who leave their homes unpainted, let their lawns grow wild and allow debris to collect in their yards.
Paul Radausakas, the city's director of licensing and inspections, said yesterday that his office has received numerous calls recently from city residents who want to report neighbors for failing to keep up their house and properties.
In particular, Radauskas said, there is a problem with people keeping old broken-down cars on their front lawns or in their backyards.
"People seem to be hanging on to these cars," he said. ". . . The minute you have one or two people do that, you have a whole rash of it in a neighborhood.
And who knows, that may be the first step to the whole neighborhood deteriorating."
To cope with this, said Radauskas the Rockville city council plans to take advantage of a state law that permits municipalities to make housing code violations civil rather criminal offenses. This, the official say, will make it easier to haul violators into courts.
"We want to eliminate the need for a criminal proceeding . . . There's a stigma that goes with that and many judges are reluctant to convict people who have merely failed to maintain their property," Radauskas said.
Radauskas said violators will be notified and given 30 days to correct any housing violations. If they do not make proper repairs, they will be issued a ticket. Repeat offenders will have to pay double the original fine, Radauskas said.
"Just look at that, look at those dump trucks. There's no reason for that," said Radauskas, reddening with anger as he passed a house with two large trucks parked alongside. Trucks are not allowed to park along Rockville's residential streets.
He also grew angry at the sight of vans with expired tags parked on lawns, or cars without tires propped up in the Lincoln Park, Maryville, Twinbrook, and Rockcrest areas of Rockville.
Radauskas said yesterday that community development block grants from the federal government or federal home improvement loans are available to some of the residents in these areas, and that many of the homeowners had already taken advantage of the block grant program to make home improvements.
Mayor William Hanna Jr. said the city should be ready to begin issuing tickets within the next two months. He has called on the city attorney's office to "tighten up" the standards for property maintenance.
Serious building code violations such as faulty electrical wiring and faulty plumbing, and fire and safety code violations, will remain criminal offenses, carrying a maximum penalty of $500 and 90 days in jail, Radauskas said.