Monroe has one. It works well for enforcement of Monroe’s property standards ordinances. Shreveport needs one.
The Shreveport-Caddo 2030 Master Plan recommends that an administrative court be established to deal with code enforcement and quality of life issues. A court modeled after Monroe’s environmental court will implement this recommendation.
Shreveport’s Department of Property Standards has five enforcement responsibilities:
a. High grass/weeds—exceeding 12 inches;
b. Inoperable vehicles—any motor vehicle incapable of being moved under its own power;
c. Care of premises—junk, trash, debris, building material, improper storage, appliances, car parts or dismantled vehicles, swimming pools in disrepair or neglected state, fallen trees or unsound fences;
d. Securing of premises—any vacant dwelling, building, or structure that has open windows, open doors, or missing windows and doors, which are potentially dangerous to the safety of any person;
e. Demolition—substandard structure that have a roof caving in, that has been burned, deteriorated porches, walls, steps, garage or shed, and those in need of severe protective treatment.
Currently, these violations go through the Shreveport City Court system. This citation procedure is burdensome and time-consuming. It may take 6 months or longer from the initial citation until resolution by a Shreveport city court judgment.
Monroe’s enforcement process is streamlined. A Monroe property standards inspector investigates complaints from citizens and other agencies. These include police, fire, elderly protective service, health department, and home health agencies.
For violations a summons is issued by the inspector that notifies the property owner(s) with instructions for code compliance. The summons also includes the date and time of the Environmental Court hearing.
The property is re-inspected if the property owner advised of compliance. In that case, the case is dismissed by the inspector. The property is also inspected the day before the court appearance.
The Environmental Court provides an administrative hearing for the property owner and code enforcement personnel. It is a division of the Monroe city court system.
The court’s hearing officer rules on alleged violations and issues orders for code compliance. This can include securing of premises and/or demolition.
After re-inspection, the case is closed if in compliance. It not, it is forwarded to the Monroe district court for further action.
Property standards codes are designed to protect the safety and welfare of individual citizens and the community at large. Unkept properties lead to neighborhood blight, and all the associated ills such as “blight creep”, declining property values and ad valorem tax revenues, and crime.
Establishment of an Environmental Court will require approval of the mayor, the city council and Shreveport city judges. This may necessitate funding of an administrative hearing officer and additional property standards personnel.
The Shreveport system is not working well. In contrast, Monroe’s Environmental Court has a proven track record of success. It certainly merits a close look.