Editorial: Better code enforcement will help Kingsport

Editorial Board • Oct 29, 2019 at 3:00 PM

As with any community, Kingsport has its share of code violations that, in some cases, neighbors have had to tolerate for years. A former member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen told us the city has a bad reputation for enforcement and indeed, over the years, support for code enforcement has been cut even as complaints have increased. The city has treated enforcement reactively, acting when complaints came in. And even then enforcement is spotty, we’re told.

But relief may be on the way, and it’s about time. Look at an aerial map of Kingsport, and you’ll see back yards with inoperable and unregistered vehicles. Some are literal auto junkyards within the city limits. Drive around some parts of the city, and you’ll see front porches and yards littered with trash, junk, overgrown grass and shrubbery.

There are dilapidated structures, vehicles illegally parked, debris and junk and illegal outside storage. Kudos to the new administration for doing something about it.

City Manager Chris McCartt said the city is assembling a task force composed of city departments that deal with enforcement, including the police, fire and building departments, public works and legal staff. Code enforcement involves each of those departments and others such as animal control.

The purpose of this committee is to examine which code enforcement efforts are being done well, which are not, and how best the city can improve. It will consider whether the city has sufficient resources, how other communities manage code enforcement, and also examine the city’s various ordinances.

In the meantime, Kingsport is stepping up enforcement. The city has added $80,000 to code enforcement for mowing high grass and tearing down dilapidated structures where the owner is absent. In such cases, the city would place a lien on the property to recover costs.

“That’ll be a process as the task force looks at opportunities and where we need to apply resources,” McCartt said. “It’ll be something we evaluate through the budget process or sooner depending on the results of the evaluation.”

It isn’t just image that’s at risk when code enforcement suffers. It’s a safety issue. It’s a health issue. And how effectively a community enforces its codes has a direct impact on property values. When residents trash their property it can be the start of a blighted neighborhood, and the only tool a community has to prevent that is efficient code enforcement.