Town maintenance code to be written

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Idea is among the recently released priorities 

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer 

Smithfield town officials aim to adopt a town-wide maintenance code by the end of the year.

Smithfield Town Manager Brian Thrower said that the code would be for the purpose of enforcing structural maintenance in town, and that staff already enforces grounds keeping, such as cutting grass. 

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Town Attorney William Riddick said that town officials would like the authority to enforce the maintenance section of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code —currently enforced by Isle of Wight County. 

The Building Code contains the regulations that must be complied with when constructing a new building, structure or addition, and must also be used when maintaining or repairing an existing building or renovating/changing its use, according to information provided by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

As it stands, the authority to enforce all sections of the Virginia Building Code sits with county officials, and Riddick said that enforcement of the maintenance section would apply to structures that are clearly in a state of deterioration, possibly with broken windows and/or other issues that may cause safety concerns.   

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that Code violations are usually enforced on a complaint basis. 

In terms of grounds keeping, the town has staff that goes out and makes sure that vegetation is in compliance with the town code and also responds to complaints, according to Thrower. 

Riddick said that the town already has the authority to declare a house an unsafe structure, but the authority to enforce maintenance would let town officials step in before structures get to that point. 

Thrower said town staff is working with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and plans to work with the Isle of Wight County Building Inspections Department to create the ordinance.

Riddick said that localities are permitted to enforce provisions of the statewide building code, pointing to Virginia Sec. 36-105, which states that local governing bodies “may also inspect and enforce the provisions of the Building Code for existing buildings and structures, whether occupied or not.” 

Right now, Riddick said that the town is looking at whether or not an employee can be authorized to enforce the Maintenance Code, adding that he and other staff were examining other localities in Virginia that already enforce it. He declined to say which localities they were examining. 

In terms of the Pierceville property, Riddick said that the town isn’t able to require maintenance through the town’s historic preservation overlay since it isn’t permitted in the state code. In the future, the town could enforce maintenance on structures if the ordinance is adopted, but it wouldn’t be through the town’s historic preservation overlay, he said. 

Grass and weed maximum heights in Smithfield are set at 14 inches, and the second violation of the ordinance within a year constitutes a $100 fine. 

Trees and shrubs are also restricted from overgrowth in the town code, and must not overhang a sidewalk at a height of less than eight feet, or overhang a street at a height of less than 14 feet, per Sec. 86-3 of the town code.  {/mprestriction}