News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Going along with city code

The City of Sisters is working within a code compliance program initially started to help with fire mitigation and safety through enforcement of code violations regarding vegetation overgrowth.

According to the presentation at last week’s City Council meeting on the program by Community Development Director Scott Woodford and City Code Compliance Agent, Jacob Smith: “The program encourages citizens to report any concerns or observations regarding fire safety, hazardous conditions, and other code violations. Every complaint is treated seriously, thoroughly investigated, and appropriate action is taken. The code compliance program strives to create a safer and more resilient city through proactive efforts and citizen engagement.”

Smith and Woodford updated Council on what types of violations they’ve seen, and how they are working with citizens to enforce the code on properties.

The program started with looking at fire safety and ADA accommodation for vegetation and overgrowth on sidewalks and properties.

Since April 2022, when his term began, Smith has reviewed data on code violations. Seventy-one percent of the violations he’s seen are categorized as “nuisances,” which include overgrown vegetation, accumulation of debris, trees hanging too low, junk vehicles on the property, etc. Other violations included design standards, such as signage design, dark skies, and zoning violations. Business licensing and streets and sidewalks contributed only 2 percent of the violations.

“I’ve found the Sisters community is very aware of dark-sky issues. I’ve seen more complaints about that than other areas,” said Smith.

The code compliance officer meets with Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) once a month and they work together on resolving issues. Smith sees complaints on parking, which DCSO will respond to. They also help handle such issues as noise and dog-at-large complaints.

One of the primary purposes of the code compliance program is to have citizens voluntarily correct their violations without using any enforcement mechanism. To achieve this, code compliance utilizes numerous notices sent to the property owner or persons responsible for the violation. Smith has achieved 93 percent voluntary compliance.

“When coming into a city that didn’t have a city code enforcement program, there are a lot of things we have to look at to enforce the code and how we can do that,” said Smith.

According to Woodford and Smith: “During the first year of the code compliance program, there have been multiple code changes

spearheaded by the code enforcement officer to improve the function, effectiveness, and scale of the program. One includes administrative infraction (which) allows for administrative infractions to be issued from start to finish with all oversites by the City. Before this change, citations would be processed through the Justice Court. An administrative infraction code allows the City more opportunities to be involved with obtaining voluntary compliance and leveraging citations as a tool.”


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