Grand Blanc Township board to boost code enforcement, blight efforts

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Blight and code violations are in the crosshairs as Grand Blanc Township officials take the first steps in the township’s new strategic plan.

Toward that end, the township will double down on the number of part-time code enforcement officers and launch a proactive approach to cleaning up some of the problem areas, particularly the northern thresholds of the community.

From there, they plan to tread lightly as they address some of the less egregious code violations.

Supervisor Scott Bennett urged the board of trustees to handle those issues with kid gloves, and prepare for some backlash.

“If we become proactive, we’re going to generate as many complaints for taking action – maybe more – than working on a complaint basis.”

One such example is the trailer ordinance, which allows residents to park travel trailers in their driveways for up to 48 hours. However, many residents keep their motorhomes, fifth-wheels and campers in their driveways for extended periods.

“There are some neighborhoods where that’s acceptable (to the neighbors),” Bennett said. “Some have boats or utility trailers, and nobody minds. In other neighborhoods, it’s totally unacceptable and the residents will call the minute someone parks in the driveway.

“Are we going to go after everybody who has a trailer? Even in the subdivisions where they don’t care? That’s one issue we are going to have to look at. Prepare for people who say they’ve parked in the driveway for 10 years with no problem, and now the township is coming after it.”

Once the township switches from a complaint-based to a proactive approach, it must enforce the codes evenly and fairly throughout the township.

As a preemptive measure, township officials are working on making the public more aware of some of those oft-violated rules, and giving ample warning before code enforcement officers visit the various areas.

“People move to our community and they aren’t sure what our standards are,” Bennett said. “They may see someone else put a trailer in the driveway, and think it must be OK. But it’s the same with other things, a couch on the porch or … a tarp on a car. It multiplies.

“It’s not a matter of punishing people for not following the rules. It’s what we think of as curb appeal. We’re not trying to be bad guys. We’re trying to protect your (property) values.”

Residents will have plenty of time to comply with the ordinances, as the first order of business will be to go after the “low-hanging fruit,” the blight issues, which is less likely to inflame the public, he said.

Currently, the township employs one full-time code enforcement officer, and has an opening for a part-time officer. The previous part-timer retired July 30.

Superintendent Dennis Liimatta is expected to fill the part-time position this week, and return to the board with some numbers and suggestions for adding a second part-timer this year, and possibly a third in 2022.

A part-time code enforcement officer, working 25 to 29 hours weekly, would cost the township about $30,000 to $36,000 annually, Liimatta said.