By Ted Hayes

Warren moves to establish housing court

Judge would oversee violations of state and local law

Posted 9/14/17

The Warren Town Council Tuesday night moved ahead with a plan to establish a housing court in Warren, a move officials hope will give the town greater power to enforce zoning and building codes, and …

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By Ted Hayes

Warren moves to establish housing court

Judge would oversee violations of state and local law

Posted

The Warren Town Council Tuesday night moved ahead with a plan to establish a housing court in Warren, a move officials hope will give the town greater power to enforce zoning and building codes, and call to account those who ignore them.

Town officials and residents have complained for years that Warren’s limited ability to enforce and adjudicate zoning and building violations leads to uncleanliness and unsightly properties, eats into the building official’s time and can lead to years-long court cases.

“You can have all the enforcement you want but if you don’t have the court system behind it it all falls apart,” Warren Town Council member John Hanley said during discussions on the matter earlier this year.

Mr. Hanley brought up the court idea shortly after being elected to the town council. As the building official in the City of Pawtucket, he said that city’s housing court is more effective than Warren’s system, in which the building official issues violation notices that are not easy to enforce and often take years to see through.

The plan introduced Tuesday night models Warren’s system after other housing court codes with the goal “to promote, protect o enhance the residential environmental quality of the people.” Under the proposed ordinance, the court would be overseen by a judge and would meet as needed. The court would have the authority to oversee and enforce:

* Zoning ordinances
* Any violation of the Rhode Island Zoning Enabling Act of 1991
* The Historical Zoning Act
* The Minimum Housing Standards Act
* The Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code
* The Subdivision and Land Development Act
* Any violations of Warren ordinances or regulations
* The Rhode Island State Building Code and one- and two-family dwelling codes, state plumbing codes, state mechanical code, state electrical code, state property maintenance code, state energy conservation code, and state fuel and gas code*

In cases where the town brings action against violators, the court will have the authority to:
* Restrain, prevent, enjoin, abate or correct a violation.
* Order the repair, vacation or demolition of any dwelling existing in violation.
* Otherwise compel compliance with all of the provisions of the ordinance.
* Order a dwelling into receivership and to order the removal of any clouds on the title to the building or property at issue.

Decisions made by the court would be appealable to the Rhode Island Superior Court.
Tuesday’s review was the first reading of the ordinance establishing the court here in Warren. A second reading and public hearing is required before a council vote on the matter.

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