Lake County has taken a major step forward in solving ongoing code enforcement issues with its recent hiring of a code enforcement officer. Jason Morelli assumed the role in early November.
Morelli said he and his wife were looking to move to Lake County as her family and extended family live in the area. The couple recently moved from Stockton, Utah.
Morelli was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army for 8 years. He said the Army’s “highly regulatory environment” has some similarities to his new position in code enforcement.
In his first month on the job, Morelli said he has been focusing on understanding the county’s current ordinances, what’s permitted and what’s not, and how that all applies to properties in the area. “There’s a lot of pieces to this,” he said.
Part of his work has also been determining how enforceable the county’s nuisance ordinances are as they stand and what modifications the Lake County Board of Commissioners will need to make in order to make the ordinances as effective as possible.
Morelli has traveled throughout the county and said he has visited every community at least once to better familiarize himself with the area. He said a lot of the code violators in the county have been out of compliance for years, and he knows it will be a process to solve those ongoing issues.
Still, he emphasized that just because the codes have not been enforced for some time does not mean people have not been in violation.
The two most common code violations in Lake County are trash accumulation and unpermitted campgrounds, Morelli noted, the latter of which is typically in the form of people living in an RV as a permanent residence. That involves both county and state violations, he explained, and said it is “a huge hazard.”
He reported that some county residents have a wood-burning stove inside their RV, which is a fire hazard and a carbon monoxide poisoning risk. RVs used as permanent residences also create a sanitary issue as they are not connected to septic. Morelli said this issue is primarily seen in Lakeview and its outskirts and in Christmas Valley.
“I’m not out to get anybody, but I am out to enforce,” Morelli said. He said his priority will be to address nuisance properties about which he receives written or phone complaints.
He also wants people to understand that just because they call or write a complaint about a property does not mean the issue will be solved in a week — it could take a few months.
When he receives a complaint about a property, Morelli will visit the location to confirm that a violation exists. If so, he will take photos to document the problem and will then send a letter to the property owner along with the photos, explaining the issue.
The property owner will then have 10 days in which to comply or file an appeal. If an appeal is filed, Morelli said he will talk with the party and come up with a plan of action. Ultimately, if someone is found to still be in violation, the matter could be turned over to the court.
Morelli stressed that if someone receives a notice that they are in violation and they believe there is a mistake or that they are not in violation — like if they do not own the property anymore or think that the violation is not on their property line — they should call him and he will discuss the matter with them.
Additionally, “If the given ten days is not enough to come into compliance, call me. I’ll give extensions to anyone so long as they are actively working to bring the property into compliance,” he said.
While he does not plan to drive around the county searching out code violations, Morelli related that if he visits a property that has been reported and he finds that the adjacent properties are also out of compliance, he will write up all three.
Lake County’s ordinances as they stand are a little vague, he said. He foresees changes will need to be made to make the ordinances more specific and to bring them more in line with state ordinances. He noted that “people shouldn’t be left wondering if they’re violating.” He expects the process to update the ordinances will start around February of 2022.