There is always a cause for concern with public officials having too much power and overreach with impunity. I know that is how some people felt when Bill 2746 was passed on second reading last week. Without two “no” votes on the bill, it makes it nearly impossible for any mayoral veto to withstand a County Council override. This is not the end of this bill, as it will surely be challenged over and over in both federal and state court.
One of the main issues at hand is the right for property owners to do with their property as they see fit without fear of the government annexing their property with impunity. The idea that you can lose your personal property to the government for any zoning violation that is not corrected, or if fines are not paid within 90 days, is concerning to anybody with property to lose.
The issue boils down to trust. If the public trusts their governing body with legislation that enables them to take everything, and they trust them to use that ability without misuse or abuse of authority, then everything is fine. If some have trouble with giving their local
government that authority, it is understandable. The possibility of abusing that power is there, regardless.
There is also the other side of the argument to consider, which is the Planning Department wanting to have the financial ability to go after entities with more resources and the ability to challenge the department both in the legal realm and their legitimacy to go after property owners. They want to be able to go after illegal transient vacation rentals and say they are perfectly fine with legally operating TVRs.
The one thing to consider here is if the Planning Department makes a blunder, the tax base will be the liable entity. After all, it will be the taxpayer who will ultimately get left with the bill if residents or entities challenge the legality of the Planning Department’s ability to foreclose on a property that has committed zoning violations and does not correct the alleged infraction(s) within the allowed timeframe.
It comes down to what side you find yourself on. If you live in a neighborhood that is overrun by illegal TVRs and you are constantly affected by the inability of the county to crack down on those illegal operations, then it’s easy to see why this new bill will do some good.
Other citizens who gave public comment during the bill’s second reading stated that they saw it as an attack on the citizenry by the Planning Department.
After getting the opportunity to have many conversations on the subject with the planning director and others, there is a sharp division of opinion on the subject, and understandably so. The simple fact is that if this bill is misused, there will be repercussions. If the bill is used as a means of enforcement and foreclosure is truly a last-resort action, then there is the hope that the bill will do some good for the community in enforcing the laws.
In the end, it really depends on what you have to lose and what horse you have in the race. As this bill get more time under its belt, we will see how it will truly affect the community as a whole. If the citizenry starts to lose their property out from under them for a simple violation that their notices are posted in the newspaper, there will be guaranteed problems. But if the bill is used as it has been stated it is intended for, then there is a chance that the bill will serve its intended purpose.
Only time will tell for whom the bill tolls.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.