HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Code enforcement officers say the “couch ordinance” that went into effect July 1 is not about couches, but about making the city of Huntington a nicer place to live.
Since the ordinance went into effect, city reports show that officers have written more than 1,900 citations for violations such as high grass and junked vehicles. Seventy-six percent of those, during the first six months the ordinance was in place, were resolved before anyone had to pay a fine or go to court.
Huntington Police Capt. Hank Dial told WSAZ.com they’ve been able to write so many citations because they now have four officers and are able to respond to calls and complaints from neighbors.
“Checking to see where people can get in and out of the property at, and I'm looking at the roof to see if it's in bad shape,” John Baker, a code enforcement officer, said.
Baker and his fellow officers can now drive around and look at vacant properties and problem spots to write citations. Dial said the goal is not to make money but to improve the look of the city, which means they allow 10 days for people to fix the problem before facing a fine or appearing in municipal court.
“No harm, no foul. If you clean it up, there's no fine. We dismiss it, no problem,” Dial said.
Baker said officers will allow more time to bring the citation into compliance if someone can explain why he or she needs additional time.
“It's fair,” Dial said. “I think folks know, when they've let their property go, that they're going to have to fix it.”
People who live near houses with junk on porches or in yards say they hope code enforcement initiatives will improve the look of their neighborhood.
“I just feel like people are lazy,” Carrie Blankenship said. “They just have no pride about their community.”
Blankenship’s elderly mother lives on a street where several houses have garbage outside or have fallen into disrepair. Her mother, who is 71 years old, called it “disgusting.”
“[My mother] has health problems and she keeps her place cleaned up, she doesn't leave trash on her porch,” Blankenship said.
Officers say they hope the citations will raise awareness and make the city a cleaner and nicer place to live.
If you receive a citation and do not clean it up within the time allowed, the fine is $100 for a first offense and goes up from there.