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Helping Our Neighborhoods: Alliance Supports New Building Inspection Measures

Photograph Courtesy of Jeff Rogers | Jeff Rogers.com

Photograph Courtesy of Jeff Rogers | Jeff Rogers.com

This Spring, the Urban County Council proposed several new tools for the Division of Building Inspection to identify violations of our Zoning Ordinance, and in turn enforce its requirements. Namely, they are:

  • Allowing a “right-of-entry” for the purpose of inspecting, ascertaining and causing the correction of any Zoning Ordinance violation;
  • Allowing the district court to issue an administrative search warrant in the event entry is denied.
  • Clarifying that civil citations and penalties are allowed in all cases involving Zoning Ordinance violations.

The Fayette Alliance believes these changes will improve the quality of life in our community. Click here to view official position statement.

By authorizing a “right of entry”, inspectors will gain needed access inside those buildings that have zoning ordinance violations—greatly strengthening LFUCG’s ability to inspect, address and remediate public safety issues created by such violations.

Currently, the Division of Code Enforcement and the Fire Marshall have the authority to enter into private property structures to address life safety issues, but the Division of Building Inspection does not.

Under the proposed changes, Building Inspection may seek an administrative search warrant from district court to enter the premises if the agent has reason to believe a violation exists inside, and access is denied by the owner or occupant of the structure. This “right of entry” will apply to the interior of occupied, private dwellings only when the inspecting agent has reason to believe that a zoning violation exists in the building. This language protects residences from unreasonable inspections and is in compliance with the 4th Amendment Bill of Rights—which guards against unreasonable search and seizure.

In addition, authorizing civil citations and penalties in the event the Zoning Ordinance, Sign Regulations, Expansion Area Exaction Fee Requirements, and/or Tree Protection Standards are violated will provide an efficient and expedient enforcement process at Building Inspection’s disposal.

Today, only criminal citations and penalties are used—which at times can be cumbersome and expensive for LFUCG to pursue due to the large caseload in our local court system. With the proposed changes, Building Inspection will have an effective regulatory framework at their fingertips, in which both criminal and civil penalties can be used to enforce the Zoning Ordinance depending on the nature of the violation, etc.

The Fayette Alliance commends the Urban Council for initiating these needed changes to Building Inspection. For decades, Lexington has struggled to comprehensively enforce the Zoning Ordinance—as most recently evidenced by the housing and neighborhood issues affecting the U.K. Campus, Cardinal Valley, and several other areas throughout our city. This text amendment is a major step in the right direction—giving LFUCG the tools it needs to address violations, and carryout the requirements of our Zoning Ordinance.

Lexington-Fayette County has a proud history of innovative land-use planning. However, the implementation of our Zoning Ordinance is the connection between the “vision” for and the “building blocks” of our community. This link is the cornerstone of our physical and natural environment—impacting how we live, work, and function. Without it, our best-laid plans go to waste; precious opportunities are squandered; and our public safety is compromised.

With more effective options to enforce our zoning ordinance on the table, LFUCG will be able to promote sustainable development that is beneficial for our entire community.

The Planning Commission heard this proposal on June 24th, and recommended approval authorizing civil and criminal penalties, and disapproval for right-of-entry and administrative search warrants on violations. This recommendation will go before the Council for consideration and potential adoption in the weeks to come, and we’ll keep you posted of all progress here at fayettealliance.com.