Sylvania city officials are considering more aggressive enforcement of zoning regulations to keep good neighbors from going bad.
Concerns are cropping up about grass that goes uncut for weeks at a time, peeling paint along exterior window sills, roofs that need repaired, and other violations of city law.
Because of the lackluster economy and the downward turn in the housing market, the city is starting to see signs that some people are neglecting their properties, said Robert Oberly, the city's zoning administrator.
And, he said, there are worries that neighborhood standards might start to decline.
Councilman Doug Haynam said he's concerned that there is a recurring theme regarding zoning code enforcement along Main Street where it seems a number of properties are out of step with community standards legislation and other regulations.
One property in particular, 5111 Main St., has been a thorn in the city's side for a considerable time, he said during council's meeting last week.
The perception of residents is that there is "very little down side to not complying with our zoning code and not continuing to be a good neighbor," he said.
Joseph Crandall of Toledo, who owns the property at 5111 Main St., has been convicted of multiple zoning violations, but Mr. Haynam alleged the property remains in noncompliance.
A few other properties continue to cause problems, Mr. Haynam said, and the city should not tolerate "bad neighbor situations."
The bottom line, he said, is that "people are not satisfied with the enforcement effort of our code."
In the next 30 days, discussions will take place about whether additional legislation is needed to strengthen the penalties, Mr. Haynam said, adding it is "important to enforce these zoning codes so neighbors feel we are doing what we can to protect their homes and our investment in the community."
Councilman Mark Luetke, who's been working on zoning matters related to 5111 Main for three years, said he regularly gets comments about its condition and impact on the neighborhood.
Mr. Luetke questioned why the city hasn't pursued stiffer penalties. The property owner has been fined several thousand dollars for zoning violations but problems continue, officials said.
Councilman Luetke said he wants to know in 30 days what the city can do to step up enforcement.
Mayor Craig Stough said most Sylvania property owners take care of their properties, but the city can't allow people to ignore prosecution and the law.
Mr. Haynam agreed that bad neighbors in the city are a rarity, and said when bad neighbors thumb their noses at regulations, they are thumbing their noses at their neighbors.
The property at 5111 Main needs repairs to windows and chimneys as well as other improvements to bring it up to code, Mr. Oberly said. The house is vacant.
In an interview this week, Mr. Crandall said "I think it is in compliance" when asked about the condition of his property.
There have been times when the property hasn't looked so good, he said, but "they bring up issues and I take care of them."
Sylvania's zoning regulations require property owners to properly maintain their homes, including windows, screens, roofs, chimneys, and siding.
It's important to note that properties with maintenance problems typically are owned by people who live elsewhere, such as in another city or state, Mr. Oberly said.
City laws will be reviewed to "put some teeth into zoning," he said.
If convicted, a violator of the zoning ordinance can face a fine of up to $250 and a sentence of up to 30 days in jail, or both.