Zoning Straight Down the Line...or Around the Edges?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate


winter roadThere was an interesting story in our local Northwest Advance newspaper (January 27th, 2008)  The article by Jeffrey Cunningham was entitled "City Council debates to to enforce local ordinances."  Zoning ordinances can sometimes become prickly issues and this was the case apparently when Fountain View Nursing Home in Coopersville, Michigan complained about neighbors who were letting junk pile up in their yards.

City officials stepped in and forced the offenders to clean up their trash by taking them to court.  However, it seems that the same standards have not been applied when the nursing home itself has violated city ordinance by parking a semi-trailer on their property in violation of zoning restrictions in a residential area. According to the paper, City officials have been in contact with the facility, yet nothing has been done in over a year.  Fountain View Nursing home uses the trailer as a collection site for its paper-drive fund-raisers.

This issue has brought to the forefront a concern about the enforcement of ordinances.  When ordinances are selectively employed, things can become messy. When one party is in violation and is taken to court yet other offenders are treated more leniently, it can look like favoritism. 

Then there is the issue of being a good neighbor.  Some folks in the community feel that zoning violations should be handled on a person to person basis.  Coopersville is a small town and some residents don't feel that the same standards that apply to larger municipalities should pertain here.  Some would argue that residents of this small community are more relaxed in their lifestyles and those who want stricter codes can move to more "upscale" suburban enclaves like East Grand Rapids.

The city council has decided to hold a workshop later this month to determine how city ordinances should be enforced in the city.  It seems to me that the word "how" is potentially a slippery slope.  If how refers to ordinances being enforced on the basis of the legal ordinances...then the moral code of law and justice is upheld.  However, if "how" gives latitude to certain violations and turns a blind eye towards others, then there may be a weakening of the moral fiber which binds this community together. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out.

Copyright 2008  Audu Real Estate  All Rights Reserved

Comments (7)

Melina Tomson
Tomson Burnham, llc Licensed in the State of Oregon - Salem, OR
Principal Broker/Owner, M.S.

If you aren't going to enforce an ordinance, take it off the books.  I never understand the point of these things if they aren't enforced.

Jan 31, 2008 01:23 PM
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services
I think the town needs to look at the ordinances on the books and see what makes sense at this point in time. If it doesn't make sense-get rid of the ordinance -- otherwise, they must be enforced.
Jan 31, 2008 01:35 PM
Fran Gaspari
Patriot Land Transfer, Inc. - Limerick, PA
"The Title Man" - Title Insurance - PA & NJ


City ordinances should reflect the spirit of the people who they were enacted to serve! I hope the council understands they are there to serve the needs of the people! Thanks,   Fran 

Jan 31, 2008 01:54 PM
Carol Spengel
Prudential Rubloff - Wheaton, IL
Wheaton IL
You mentioned being a good neighbor - our town has a Property Standards Department.  I called for a client who's neighbor refused to keep up on exterior maintenance.  This department said they handle these types of complaints.  Maybe call around to other communities to get some best practices on the subject will save your community precious time reinventing the wheel.
Jan 31, 2008 01:58 PM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

One for all and all for one...let us know how it plays out.....our zoning laws are enforced and they crack down and heavy fines applied!

Jan 31, 2008 02:06 PM
CONTACT janeAnne365@gmail.com


Loved this post. I am going to send it on over to my pal the Councilwoman here in Asheville...as "food for thought". . .

Jan 31, 2008 02:48 PM
Sharon Simms
Coastal Properties Group International - Christie's International - Saint Petersburg, FL
I'm with the majority of the comments - if there are codes, they should be enforced, and fairly, across the board. If they don't make sense, then take them off the books. It's extremely frustrating when code enforcement officials don't and won't follow their own rules when it comes to enforcement.
Jan 31, 2008 02:56 PM