Under the direction of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners, the planning office uses a comprehensive policy to guide enforcement of land use regulations. The fundamental objective of this policy is to provide prompt, courteous, fair and effective treatment of possible land use violations. Enforcement procedures are applied through the employment of an Ordinance Administrator. The Ordinance Administrator serves both the planning and building safety departments.
The county’s code enforcement program applies to rural lands only. The program does not apply to lands within the cities of Grants Pass or Cave Junction, or lands within the urban growth boundary for the city of Grants Pass.
# Does Josephine County Enforce Its Ordinances?
Yes. All complaints merit some level of consideration, whether the source of information is from a private citizen, organization, public employee or Board of County Commissioners. However, because of limited funding and the large number of complaints, priority is based on degree of harm and the availability of evidence to support legal action.
The county’s basic enforcement procedures are established by ordinance. When a complaint is filed, this ordinance requires the planning office to attempt resolution. The Ordinance Administrator talks with complainants and witnesses, makes a site visit, talks to the property owners in person, and works with planning and building safety staffs to find ways to resolve the situation. Always, the aim of code enforcement is to gain early compliance in the easiest way possible. Court action is a last resort utilized only when all other solutions fail.
# Where Can Complaints Be Filed?
Complaints regarding planning and building code violations may be filed with the planning or building safety offices during business hours. Both offices are located at 700 NW Dimmick Street, Suite A for Building Safety and Suite C for Planning. Complaints may be filed with the County’s Ordinance Administrator by calling 474-5425. The complaint form can be downloaded using the link shown above.
# What Is Needed to File A Complaint?
Complaints may be initiated by submitting an official complaint form. The form is fairly easy to complete and asks for the following basic information: The name, address, and telephone number of the person making the complaint; The exact address or Assessor’s legal description (township, range, section and tax lot number) for the property where the alleged violation is occurring, along with the property owner’s name, if known; A brief description of the alleged violation, to include the risk of harm and the available evidence and witnesses. It is important to provide all of the required information. A complete and accurate complaint speeds the county’s response. The complaint form must be signed.
# Do County Officials Patrol For Violations?
No. The first reason this is so is because the Board of County Commissioners have instructed county employees not to do this. The second reason is county staff and the Ordinance Administrator, in particular, simply do not have time to drive around looking for violations. The county receives way more complaints than it can handle. Nevertheless, when public officials come across apparent violations in the performance of regular duties, a complaint may be initiated if the violations involve serious risks to public health and safety. Otherwise, only complaints from private citizens are given high priority.
# What Are The Most Common Types Of Violations?
By far and away, the most frequent kind of violation is the placement of more dwellings than zoning allows. This includes the use of recreational vehicles as residences without permits for septic or electricity. Other common violations are the operation of home businesses and the construction of accessory buildings without required permits. For the most part, failure to comply with building codes are considered serious because of potential safety problems.
# How Long Does It Take To Do Something About A Violation?
It takes about two to three weeks to initiate an investigation, but this depends on the existing workload and the seriousness of the alleged violation. The first step is to verify the violation by making an inspection of the property. In most cases the next step is to write a letter to the property owner explaining the problem and asking for a response. In the most serious cases, the Ordinance Administrator may attempt immediate contact by going to the owner’s residence or by making a telephone call. How quickly violations are resolved depends mostly on the cooperation of land owners. For this reason the time needed to resolve individual violations varies greatly. The county’s enforcement ordinance calls for up to three letters, to include a final letter by registered mail. In each case the letters emphasize informal resolution. If absolutely all efforts to resolve the violation fail, the Board of County Commissioners may authorize legal action. Except in the most dangerous situations, court action generally proceeds slowly.
# Are Complaints Confidential?
No. Fifteen years ago the Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution that says planning and building safety complaints must be disclosed upon request. This resolution remains in place today. A copy of the complaint form will be provided to anyone who asks for it pursuant to Oregon’s Public Records Law.
# Can I Talk To Someone In Person?
Yes. The Code Enforcement Administrator is available for appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to Noon. No appointment is necessary to file a complaint (it can be left at the office, mailed, or sent electronically). Contact by phone at 541-474-5425 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.