By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank is cracking down on property-based quality-of-life issues, borough officials said last week.
Word of a ramp-up of code enforcement — including foot patrols — for matters like unmowed lawns and rubbish came in response to a complaint that some residents have been threatened with fines for minor infractions.
Business Administrator Ziad Shehady said the borough code enforcement department “is being more diligent than ever before,” adding “evening and weekend patrols,” both in vehicles and on foot.
“Because of that new effort, some people may be unsure, or taken aback, by the enforcement,” Shehady said at last Wednesday’s semimonthly council meeting.
“We’re trying our best to get compliance,” he said. “We want Red Bank to look great.”
The eyes are on “not just residential properties” but on commercial properties as well, he said.
Shehady’s remarks were in response to a claim by Allison Gregory, a real estate agent who’s running for council as a Republican, that borough employees were “threatening neighbors.”
Gregory said it had been brought to her attention “by quite a few people” that homeowners were being threatened with $250 fines, on short notice, for violations like having uncut lawns.
“Calling somebody at 2:30 in the afternoon; it gets dark at 8. How many hours do you have to cut your grass?” Gregory said. “I think that’s pretty bad that you couldn’t have been notified with five hours of daylight left, when there are so many other situations.”
She cited 90 Bank Street, where, homeowners William and Teresa Poku have drawn the fire of neighbors, and been locked for years in litigation with the borough, over a teeming collection of rusting cars, other vehicles and household materials piled up on three sides of their house.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the matter is “in both federal and state litigation,” and so borough officials can’t comment on it.
But regarding other enforcement, Gregory’s claim was “completely inaccurate,” Menna said.
But Shehady said inspectors will either speak to homeowners in person or call them to give “a verbal warning, not a threat,” and if there’s no compliance, “they follow up with a written notice, then a summons.
Shehady said property owners are given “days, not hours,” to “abate” situations before the written warnings and tickets are issued.
Shehady, who has sought to modernize and better organize borough government operations since starting the job in May, told redbankgreen afterward that the ramp-up began in mid-August after he heard complaints that enforcement was “lax and inconsistent.”
He didn’t yet have information on the number of warnings or summonses issued, he said.