Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Landlord Spanky Macher Gets Front Page News

Roanoke Landlord Spanky Macher gets the front page news in the Roanoke Times regarding his Citizen Code Violations (CCV) protest against the Roanoke City Code Enforcement for attacking the citizens of Roanoke.

Macher and members of the CCV have been citing the city for their own violations in the understanding that the city should care for their own property in the same manor that they force the citizens of Roanoke to do through threats of $2,500 fines, liens on property and criminal charges placed against it's citizens. A number of people have responded to the CCV city violations with comments such as "it's about time someone stood up and let the city know we are fed up with these tyrannical forms of government" and "good job...that's a nice light hearted way to make a point that we are tired of being bullied by Roanoke City."

Conflicting points of view include the views of the President of the Mountain View Neighborhood Association, Gregg Ervin. Ervin said he understands Macher's frustration, "but then again it's not going to do any good to point out the grass at the library is too high."

And for the most radical opposing viewpoint, Jeff Campbell, president of Old Southwest Inc. says "With regards to Spanky's record and how he maintains properties, he needs to be picked on by code enforcement." It would be interesting to hear Campbell specify exactly what property he is referring to regarding improper maintenance. For those who don't know, in order to rent a property in the City of Roanoke, one must obtain a rental certificate. In order to obtain a rental certificate, the property must meet a highly demanding safety inspection and everything must be in working order. Holes in roofs, chipped and peeling paint, rotten siding or soffits, long grass or any other issues must be resolved before a landlord is allowed to rent the unit.

Quite honestly, this sounds more like Campbell has a chip on his shoulder and wishes to commit defamation of character, otherwise called calumny, vilification, slander and or libel, rather than legitimate accusations.

Here is the well written article by Mason Adams of the Roanoke Times:

Roanoke code enforcers changing style

Roanoke officials say the inspectors now focus on helping homeowners solve problems, not citing violations.



Roanoke's code enforcement department seems to catch criticism from all sides.

Neighborhood advocates complain that inspectors don't always move fast enough or penalize property owners harshly enough to make a difference.

Property owners who get hit with citations often feel they've been unfairly targeted.

Last spring, Roanoke's municipal auditors released a report that criticized the code enforcement department for inconsistent coverage, the lack of a single policies and procedures manual, inadequate oversight of the electronic permits system and poor follow-through on some violations that went to court.

The department responded with a defense of its procedures, arguing that auditors received a misleading "snapshot" that lacked depth and context.

Nonetheless, one year later the code enforcement officials have incorporated a number of the audit's recommendations. They've won qualified praise from neighborhood groups, as well as from new City Manager Chris Morrill.

"I spent a day with one of our inspectors," Morrill said. "I was impressed with how everybody knew him. So much happens behind the scenes. They're moving from citing violators to trying to solve the problems."

Gregg Ervin, president of the Mountain View Neighborhood Association, praised the code inspector that works his neighborhood.

"She's out there every day working on these problems, working with landlords, working with homeowners," he said. "She does as much or more for this neighborhood as anyone else in the city."

But Ervin also observed it's an uphill battle, particularly in some sections of the city that "have been going downhill a long time." The inspectors do what they can, he said, but the results are sometimes uneven.

Another common complaint involves what happens after properties are cited.

Jeff Campbell, president of Old Southwest Inc., said he's become frustrated by a judicial system that takes a lenient approach toward offenders, usually offering them the chance for more time.

The theory is that people in violation of code can invest their money into bringing their property back into compliance rather than using it to pay fines.

"Our goal isn't to fine people and put liens on property," Morrill said. "Our goal is to improve neighborhoods and reach compliance."

Campbell said he understands that but thinks that certain property owners -- particularly absentee landlords in the rental business -- take advantage of the system.

One of the biggest challenges for code inspectors is finding the right solution for the city's various neighborhoods, each of which has a different set of problems.

"Some areas are naturally going to have more, say weeds, than rental housing or those types of things," said Dan Webb, Roanoke's code compliance coordinator. "Some might have a lot of commercial properties, or we might have zoning issues in the neighborhood."

-- -- -- --

Inspectors divide Roanoke into 11 zones. The zones near the city's older core, where houses tend to have more issues and require more upkeep, are smaller, while those that cover the newer neighborhoods around the perimeter are larger.

Code inspectors must attend neighborhood meetings within their zones and work hand in hand with police officers assigned to the area. In addition, inspectors respond to complaints, work with businesses, inspect rental units and regularly canvass their zone for violations.

Inspectors also are asked to take a comprehensive approach to code enforcement -- inspecting a property for multiple violations instead of just the reason for a complaint.

For situations that go beyond code enforcement alone, the city assigns an interdepartmental team. Officials from a variety of departments -- police, code enforcement, the commissioner of revenue, the health department -- occasionally make a joint visit to particularly troublesome properties.

Roanoke landlord Roland "Spanky" Macher was the subject of one recent interdepartmental team visit.

What particularly incensed Macher about the situation was his perception of hypocrisy among city officials. They've allowed city-owned historic buildings to fall into disrepair, he said, and have fallen back on a 21-day mowing cycle in parks and at other city properties because of the tight budget.

Frustrated, Macher responded by turning the tables. He handmade a series of signs ostensibly sponsored by what he calls "Citizens Code Violations" and then placed them at city properties where the grass exceeded 10 inches -- the city's standard for a code violation.

"Mow your grass!" read one sign he placed at the Williamson Road Library.

Macher said his own problems weren't the motivation.

"It's not me -- I get a lot of violations anyway," Macher said. "These elderly people on Social Security -- they can't paint their house, they can't mow the yard. The city comes in and starts running over top of these people. ... You should do everybody, including yourself. They're not doing themselves -- that's the issue."

Ervin said he understands Macher's frustration, "but then again it's not going to do any good to point out the grass at the library is too high."

For the city's part, Webb said that he and his inspectors aren't targeting individuals like Macher. At least one neighborhood advocate, though, thinks the city should.

"With regards to Spanky's record and how he maintains properties, he needs to be picked on by code enforcement," Campbell said.


Anonymous said...

You make mention to the rental property meeting a highly demanding safety inspection.. This information is true, however the property is not looked at again for 2years, and alot of maintenance neglect can take place during that time.. I live in a neighborhood where Macher owns property and he only maintains them when forced to do so by Roanoke City Code..

Dallas ® on January 20, 2011 at 5:21 PM said...

I'm glad we agree on rental properties having to meet a highly demanding safety inspection in Roanoke. And you can double that inspection if the property is a Section 8 property.

You are incorrect in the statement that properties have to be looked at every 2 years. The law states that they have to be looked at every 4 years. If there is a complaint on the property at any point in time the code enforcer has the right to completely reinspect the property.

Inside a house things can deteriorate quickly when tenants tear up a property. This is something that I think you can understand shouldn't be blamed on a landlord. But I am assuming that you are referring to the outside of the property considering you said you were a neighbor and not a tenant.

I disagree that a property completely falls apart in 4 years. Any half way decent paint lasts 15 years if applied correctly. Wood can last for 100+ years if there is care taken in keeping a solid coat of paint on it.

I am wondering if what the real issue is, is that you may not be happy with the degree that Virginia State Code requires property to be at.

And I am assuming that the code enforcer has done their job to the extent of what the law requires.

Best Regards,


Matt lusk on April 16, 2014 at 11:58 PM said...

Government intervention almost always sucks. Low IQ people get jobs with the system and screw things up. If you're fired from productive jobs, where else can you get a job? At the guberment compliance offices. reduce government, increase freedom.
Spanky is an American Hero.
Matt Lusk, Sanderson TX

Dallas ® on May 26, 2014 at 3:14 PM said...

Matt, I completely agree with you!

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