There 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.
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