Codes enforcement keeps town beautiful

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Holley Marlowe is cleaning up the Town of Farragut, and it’s the best job she’s ever had, she says.

Holley is Farragut’s first codes and zoning enforcement officer. Before she took the job a year ago, enforcement work was handled as staff had time. She’s the first employee dedicated to enforcement, and as a result, citations are up.

The Farragut Municipal Code does not allow grass or weeds to be over 12 inches tall within 100 feet of an occupied building. It also forbids trash, junk and inoperable vehicles on any premise. Residents can report offenders by calling or visiting Town Hall or filling out an online complaint here. Staff sometimes report violations, as do elected officials, Holley says.

Before her position was created, some reports “fell through the cracks.” No more.

“If it’s reported, it will be checked out.”

When she receives a report, she inspects the property and takes pictures. Then a notice of violation is sent. It’s just a warning, and the hope is that once the owner is made aware of the violation, it will be remedied. If it’s not, Holley issues a citation to appear before Farragut Municipal Court

Court was held once a month until this year, when court dates were scheduled twice a month to accommodate increased citations. In 2019, the court ruled on 10 property maintenance cases. This year, it has already ruled on 19.

At court hearings, Holley presents the evidence and the defendant is given the opportunity to state his or her case. Most aren’t represented by attorneys. The judge, Keith Alley, typically gives the defendant more time or issues a fine. Fines are up to $50 per day per violation. To date, the largest fine issued by the town is $5,000.

The goal is to get property owners to address issues rather than pay fines.

“If someone calls me and says they’re working on it, then it’s no problem,” Holley says. “But if they ignore the violation, they’ll be cited to municipal court.”

In addition to fines, defendants can pay up to $100 in court costs. The town contracted with a collection agency this year to handle fines and court costs.

As a contentious election looms, residents should also be aware that Holley is on the lookout for signs in the public rights of way. Election signs are only permitted on private property within 60 days of an election and are limited to one sign per candidate ticket. She picks up signs collected from rights of way and notifies owners if signs on private property are not to code.

Holley sees herself as someone who helps residents stay out of trouble rather than someone who causes trouble. She likes that she can see the impact she’s having on the community when she drives past the property of former offenders.

But there are limits to her abilities. She’s occasionally contacted by residents who don’t care for something in a neighbor’s yard, even though it’s not a code violation.

“I can’t do anything about an ugly fence,” Holley laughs.

Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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