Our View: Call of the code in Will County
SouthtownStar editorial March 7, 2013 9:04PM
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:44AM
There are pluses and minuses to living in an unincorporated area. While you don’t get the public services that you do in a town, it’s cheaper, mostly because of a lower property tax rate.
And you don’t have to deal with nearly as many rules and regulations — a major advantage for those rebellious folks with a dim view, if not a deep distrust, of government.
But that’s changing in Will County.
Under a new code enforcement system that began July 1, the county has gotten tough on property owners in unincorporated areas — issuing tickets for violations ranging from illegal zoning to not getting a building permit to not maintaining your property to letting your dogs run loose without tags.
It’s a welcome crackdown to improve enforcement that county officials concede was lax and took too long. From July 1 to late January, 1,826 tickets were issued, with many homeowners being cited for violations that were not being enforced.
A key to the county’s new enforcement program is a local adjudication system in which most of the alleged violators appear before a hearing officer instead of going to court and facing a judge. Processing such cases through the courts meant that it took 18 to 24 months to resolve them rather than a couple of months, county officials said.
A typical hearing lasts 15 minutes, saving time and court costs and freeing judges to handle more serious cases. Those ticketed can have an attorney and can appeal the ruling to circuit court.
Elizabeth Dunn, code enforcement manager for the county’s land use department, says the new system also has “significantly increased compliance” during the past six months, with about half the cases being dropped before a hearing because the resident corrected the violation.
County officials insist that the hearing system was not created primarily to bring in more money from fines. We’re not sure about that. However, it seems to be working so well it’s a wonder why it wasn’t implemented sooner.