New Royal Oak law cracks down on sloppy home construction sites

An updated city law takes effect next week that puts new restrictions — and potential penalties — on home builders in Royal Oak that block sidewalks and fail to maintain construction sites.

The updated city ordinance has been in the works for months and became one of the biggest issues in the city after multiple neighbors and officials complained about the practices of some builders.

Realtor and builder John Farhat, who has had no issues with the city, told City Commissioners this week he agrees changes needed to be made.

“To see builders closing sidewalks for months at a time is unfair,” he said.

With hundreds of housing renovations and new homes going up in the city in recent years, officials say new rules for builders will stop many of the problems they see with some builders.

“It’s going to clean up these neighborhood (disturbances) and put an end to it,” said City Commissioner Dave Poulton, who led the call for updating Royal Oak’s construction site code along with City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle.

Violations of the updated code will now be a civil infraction. First-time violations have a minimum fine of $250 and second violations are double that amount.

Builders who rack up three or more violations face a criminal misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Some of the biggest problems, including litter, have come from builders failing to contain properties under construction with fencing, blocking and muddying sidewalks and keeping portable toilets too close to neighboring houses.

Builders will now have to get a city permit for any work that encroaches on the right-of-way or adjoining sidewalk. Dirt or debris on the right-of-way has to be cleaned up daily and trees protected with a protective screening.

Additionally, before construction begins at a site it has to be enclosed with metal fencing at least four feet high. Excavation sites have to be closed within 60 days.

Officials noted the city gets complaints on a minority of housing developers who have created disturbances in neighborhoods.

City Commissioner Patricia Paruch warns the city will need to have enough enforcement if the construction site ordinance update is to be effective.

“Until we beef up enforcement we’re still going to have problems with builders that are bad actors,” she said.

City elected officials also plan to look at other city ordinances on the books that can have an effect on how builders operate, such as installing silt fencing that keeps mud and earth from clogging city water-sewer lines.

“It’s a big issue,” said City Engineer Matt Callahan.

Mahrle said he wants to see other issues considered, including prohibiting demolition work on holidays.

Still, the new rules that go into effect July 20 are a good start, he added.

“This is a good first step in securing construction sites and mitigating the disturbances in neighborhoods,” Mahrle said. “I don’t think most builders are bad actors.”

Original Source:

Original Author: Mike McConnell

Original Date: 7/12/17