The Manassas City Council has voted to allow fines or civil penalties to be used as an enforcement tool for certain zoning law violations.
According to city documents, the council voted to amend a section of the city's zoning laws to establish civil penalties (fines) for certain violations to be punishable by a fine of $200 for the initial summons and $500 for each additional summons up to a maximum of $5,000.
However, Council member Jonathan Way made a motion on June 25, one week after the public hearing regarding the matter, to change the language of the amended section of the ordinance to say that the penalty for a first offense shall be a warning providing a reasonable period of remediation not to exceed 10 days.
Two hundred dollars is a lot of money and it shouldn't be imposed without a warning, Way said.
The amendment to include civil penalties is designed as a code enforcement tool and is intended for those who consistently violate zoning ordinances, according to Manassas City Planning and Zoning Services Manager Terry Russell. "Offenders will first be given a warning or a reasonable amount of time to correct the violation, and if they don't correct, the city will issue the notice of violation, which is standard procedure," he said.
The offenses that the changes to the ordinance target are nothing new, said Council member Way.
"This whole change in the ordinance is really intended to be an administrative simplification and a method of encouraging people rather strongly to conform with the ordinance. It is another step towards proactive zoning enforcement in the city," he said
The following offenses could carry a civil penalty or other infraction if in violation of the city's zoning laws:
- Erecting or maintaining fences
- Erecting or maintaining signs (except for posting of signs on public property or public rights-of-way, which is not subject to civil penalty)
- Failure to enclose trash receptacles
- Failure to use parking and loading spaces
- Obstructions that impair the vehicular sight distance at an intersection, such as structures, fences, plantings or landscaping; and obstructions created by any structure or landscaping of any form along a public right-of-way that will impede the adjoining property owner's sight distance for access onto a public right-of-way.
- Storage, keeping collecting or baling of paper, rags, scrap metals, other scrap or discarded materials, or the storage of automobiles or other vehicles not in operable condition or the storage of machinery or parts
- Alteration of a structure within the historic district without a certificate of appropriateness.
- Parking and storing vehicles
- Keeping animals
- Constructing accessory structures in violation of this chapter
- Conducting a home occupation without obtaining the approval of the zoning administrator