A Leavenworth County official Thursday said the county's plan to start ticketing code violators code could be up and running as soon as May.
County Counselor David Van Parys said details are emerging on a codes court run through Leavenworth County District Court, “piggybacking” off of the existing traffic court but used to enforce the county's planning and zoning regulations instead.
The county's planning and zoning department, according to Leavenworth County commissioners, have had some code violation cases open for close to a decade because, aside from sending letters to the property owners, they have had little enforcement powers.
“Currently, to enforce regulations, we have to file an action in civil court,” Van Parys said. “It's not difficult to to do, but it is somewhat more complicated than simply issuing a citation, which is what initiates a codes court proceeding.”
The county already has a code enforcement officer and Van Parys said the codes court would empower that officer to issue citations, which would also be filed with the clerk of the district court. Though he said the officer would likely contact the property owner and ask for the nuisance or code violation to be abated.
“That generally resovles the case,” he said.
If it doesn't, the matter would proceed much as it would during a normal court case ― Van Parys said the individual could enter a plea, request a trial or even appeal the decision.
Negotiations have been ongoing for some time on exactly how the dedicated codes court would work ― it needs a judge, a courtroom and resources in the court clerk's office. Van Parys said he would be meeting again with court officials next week to finalize some of the details in regard to the courtroom and judge used. In the meantime, he said the commission would need to adopt a fine schedule, capped by state law at $500 per offense.
However, though Van Parys said the county has not had a codes court until now, he did not anticipate a flood of cases following the start date, nor did he anticipate planning and zoning to take a proactive role in finding violations.
“It's not contemplated that we would have a code enforcement officer out driving around looking for things,” Van Parys said. “It's mostly items brought to our attention by neighbors and people who live nearby.”
Van Parys anticipated a May 1 or June 1 starting date for the codes court.