The Benefits of Outsourcing Code Enforcement

February 12, 2024
By Kim Lindquist, Director of Community Planning, WSB

It’s that time of year when the snow melts and residents begin to go outside after the winter hibernation. Spring prompts many activities for cities, like street sweeping and fire hydrant flushing, but a less obvious activity is the increase of code enforcement work.

What is Code Enforcement?

Code enforcement is the process communities use to gain compliance with various city code violations within a community. Generally, cities always initiate code enforcement actions on a “complaint basis,” meaning that a neighbor or resident noticed something on a property that does not seem to meet the rules and regulations of the city. Many cities also conduct proactive code enforcement, where staff identifies violations, rather than the public, and acts accordingly. Complaints are typically issues that can be visually verified and include things like outside storage, junked or unlicensed vehicles, and parking on the grass. Throughout the summer, tall grass and noxious weeds are some of the most common complaints. Regardless of which methodology cities undertake, the goal is to maintain the value, character, and aesthetics of individual neighborhoods and the community.

Who Enforces City Code?

Cities may use on-staff personnel, such as a planner, Community Service Officer, or building inspector, for some code enforcement activities. However, as their workload has grown, more communities are exploring full-time code enforcement officers for the busy spring and summer months. Because this is a specialized role, and in certain climates workload is uneven, cities often look to fill seasonal code enforcement positions during the summer. In the current labor market, filling these positions has become more challenging. Outsourcing code enforcement can help cities provide the service without adding to existing staff workload and prevents them from hiring for a position that may be underutilized in the winter months.

Outsourcing Code Enforcement

WSB has had the opportunity to conduct code enforcement activities for various communities. Currently, our team of skilled planners are supporting the City of Shoreview, a community that conducts code enforcement mainly on a complaint basis but also has some proactive enforcement by choosing a neighborhood each year to canvass. By staffing their code enforcement work with a WSB Community Planner, they now have an extension of their staff who understand City Codes, particularly Zoning regulations which are often the more complex enforcement actions. As with most communities, Shoreview works to bring a property into compliance with education; explaining property maintenance rules is a key part of any code enforcement program. Our staff work with property owners to assist in bringing sites into compliance and more importantly, understanding what is and isn’t allowed by code.

There are many benefits to outsourcing code enforcement efforts. These efforts are often scalable allowing our staff to ramp up during busier times and provide less service during slower times. WSB provides staffing flexibility to meet community needs. Outsourcing code enforcement allows city staff more time to focus on other priorities, especially in a time of high development demands. WSB is one of few consulting firms that conduct code enforcement work for our clients, and our scalable model addresses many potential needs and resources.

Kim is a planning professional with over 30 years of experience overseeing a variety of complex planning projects. Kim worked in high growth communities working with developers and the public on entitlements for residential development and business attraction to the city.

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