City strengthens code enforcement, attempts to clean up blight



FLUSHING — Over the past year, Flushing has been tackling code violations and blight with the help of Flushing Fire Chief Jim Michael, who doubles as the city’s code enforcement officer.

Since being appointed to his new position last September, Michael has responded to 331 code enforcement cases throughout Flushing. Many of the cases involve yard blight like “junk” vehicles parked in front yards or violations like garage sale signs being improperly placed in the city’s right of ways.

Michael said that he’s had mostly positive responses from residents when he informs them that they’re committing a code violation.

“Many people say they just didn’t know about an ordinance or didn’t understand how it worked,” he said. “I usually just give warnings, send letters and talk to people and they’ll get things taken care of. If there are occasions when things don’t get done or they don’t back with me, I’ll be forced to write a ticket for a civil infraction.”

During the spring and summer, Michael said that uncut grass is one of the common violations he responds to. If a homeowner’s lawn reaches six inches or more in length, the city will send out a company to cut the grass and charge the cost for mowing onto the resident’s tax bill.

Michael is also reminding residents to refrain from blowing grass into the streets when they’re mowing in the spring/summer months and avoid shoveling snow into the streets during the winter. Both are violations of city codes and could result in civil infractions.

With garage sale season in full swing, Michael said that residents should avoid placing signs in city of right of ways. Under city ordinance, signs cannot be placed within 10 feet of the nearest curb line or, in the absence of curbs, within 10 feet from the nearest edge of pavement.

Another common code violation Michael said he has witnessed includes people parking travel trailers in driveways for long periods of time. According to city code, residents are only allowed to park trailers in their driveways 24 hours before a trip and 24 hours after a trip. Boats are also not allowed to be stored in driveways.

Prior to Michael’s appointment, code enforcement responsibilities fell to the Flushing City Police Department—a task that Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek said was difficult on officers.

“At the time, there were a number of properties that needed attention, and we knew that we had to get the situation under control,” he said. “It wasn’t the fault of our police officers, who were short-staffed and getting hammered with overtime.”

Karlichek said that maintaining consistent code enforcement is vital for property values, especially since the city receives 45 to 47 percent of its revenue from property taxes.

“The City Council looked at how we can better deliver better code enforcement service to our citizens at a minimum cost,” he said. “Having an individual like Jim who is here full time in dual roles provides a tremendous benefit to the city.”

Visit flushingcity.com to see a complete list of Flushing City ordinances and codes. To report a code enforcement violation, fill out a blight form online at the city’s website or call the city office at 810-659-5665.