Township eyes municipal civil infraction ordinance

By David Fleet


Atlas Twp.-The township board of trustees will consider implementation of a municipal civil infraction ordinance during the May 16 board meeting.

If approved, changes to township infractions regarding nuisance, zoning, licenses, signs, lighting, animals and blight will result in a civil infraction rather than a criminal violation.

David Lattie, township attorney, suggested the change during the April 18 township board of trustees meeting.

“The need to change to the municipal civil infraction ordinance in the township will reduce the time to settle the cases and improve revenue from the citations,” said Lattie.  “Part of the benefit will be to eliminate the sheriff department from the process. The state will be out of the loop and it will be between the county and the township to settle these matters.”

The change was suggested by Matt Hart, township building inspector and code enforcer. Hart, who has enforced the township ordinances for the past 15 years said he receives about 30-40 complaints each year.

“Right now I go out and investigate the situation when a resdient calls the township for such issues like not mowing lawns or barking dogs,” he said. “Many times I just talk to the residents, who may have a broken lawnmower or something. I really try to work with people, but sometimes it becomes necessary to issue a citation. Honestly, sending the resident a letter regarding the complaint often does not work. They ignore it.”

Hart said that mowing violations are down, but blight complaints are up in the township.

“The civil infraction is a multi-part ticket that provides time to fix the problem and if they don’t there’s a time set for a hearing in court,” he said. “From that point forward the judge decides what happens. If the problem is resolved the case will come off the court docket. If not, the judge hears both sides of the case and determines a judgement. It’s a formal hearing to settle the matter. With the municipal infraction I’ll not have to keep coming back. The whole process would be streamlined. The deputies will be out of the loop altogether. I’m sure they have better things to do.”

The board meets at 5:30 p.m., May 16..

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