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Survey Reveals What Residents Like Least about the City

…and makes me think people are reluctant to call code enforcement

This is my favorite time of year. Winter is finally over, plants are just beginning to pop out of the ground, and the results of the College Park Resident Survey are in.

I like everything about the resident survey. I appreciate getting the opportunity to fill it out—it’s nice that the city even bothers to ask—and I especially like reading the written responses from residents. Who wouldn’t? Like comments on a website, the survey is anonymous, so residents are free to speak their mind, and if the Internet Age has taught us anything, it’s that people like to criticize and complain (and insult) anonymously.

That said, my favorite responses are found in the section that asks, “What do you like least about your neighborhood?” As you also might expect, a lot of the serious answers to this question pertain to the city’s perennial challenges: raucous students, crime and public safety, traffic, the lack of neighborhood amenities (grocery stores or restaurants) and problems caused by inconsiderate (or oblivious) residents, like noise and litter .

What’s interesting about the last item on this list is that, unlike the preceding issues - which the city can’t address without assistance from the university, additional revenues or state funding, or interest from developers - many of the problems caused by inconsiderate residents can be addressed through the city’s code enforcement process.

Yet, based on the survey responses like, “no code enforcement for the things that really matter,” “unkempt yards, yards filled with garbage, houses in poor states of repair,” “dog owners who keep their pets out at night and ignore their howling,” and “noisy student rentals,” one gets the feeling that the residents who are upset about the neighbors’ inconsiderate behavior are either unaware or reluctant to file a complaint with the city’s code enforcement staff.

I know: it’s hard to tell from these brief written responses whether the folks who wrote them are aware of how the city’s code enforcement process works or whether they feel comfortable registering a complaint. But, based on my experience with my neighbors on the things that have taken place on my street, it’s clear that few people enjoy “telling” on a neighbor who doesn’t play nice with his or her neighbors.

Nevertheless, because the city’s code enforcement process is “complaint based,” residents who really want something done about those houses in disrepair, questionably parked cars, or noisy neighbors, have two options: contacting code enforcement or grin and bear it.

 

Smith, a resident of north College Park, blogs at www.ncpinformant.com.

Kerry K March 08, 2011 at 03:49 PM
Joe, The sense in our neighborhood is that there is no reticence about calling code enforcement, but it's unclear what happens after that phone call is made. When I look at the Property Violation website, I see violations on a number of "problem" properties nearby, but most of them have a status of "Active/Monitoring." What does that mean? Was a citation issued? Does a house have to rack up a certain number of "Active/Monitorings" before an actual citation is issued? Maybe Patch could embark on a ride along or day-in-the-life of a Code Enforcement officer to shed some light on how the system does/should work.
Lauren Evans March 08, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Kerry - That is an excellent idea! We'll definitely check into the feasibility of doing that.
Joe Smith March 08, 2011 at 07:32 PM
Kerry, Thanks for the comment. In regard to your question, which I do not know the answer to, have you or your neighbors ever followed up with the city's code enforcement folks or, even better, the public service's director about what that status means? In my experience, they're pretty responsive. Also, if there are multiple properties like this in your neighborhood, why not Code Enforcement staff come to your neighborhood civic assn meeting, so you can talk to them directly? They came to a NCPCA meeting a few months ago and it was informative discussion.
SF March 08, 2011 at 09:48 PM
28 percent of us think that city snow removal is fair or poor? Wow. I don't know anyone in the metro area who sees a plow in their neighborhood before I do. The one-block long alley behind my house is cleared before anyone I know has a plowed street. There are ample things to complain about in College Park. The public services delivered by our city employees is not one of them.
mjk928 November 20, 2011 at 01:56 AM
As a University of Maryland student who frequently parties in the neighborhood, I understand the nuisance of having loud obnoxious students partying late. However, what I have never understood is why choose to live in this neighborhood, knowing full well that these homes support many student's living needs (considering the University doesn't guarantee housing for most upperclassmen). While new high rise apartments are springing up, many of them are expensive, and some students just want to live in a real house as they get older and want to remove themselves from the large dorm style living. They offer independence, as well as many things upperclassmen desire: larger single rooms, full kitchens and living rooms. This university is one of the largest in the nation and has been known as a party school for decades. Since many College Park bars have closed, and students can't drink in dorms or fraternity houses, they must go somewhere to have a good time. We are in college; did you not party when you were our age? College kids party; always have, always will. Maybe you've chosen to live in College Park because it's close to DC, or because living costs are fairly cheap here. But considering the poor amenities, high crime rates, flooding problems, and knowledge that young people enjoy partying, why live here? And if you do choose to start a home here, why act naive to these facts? What alternatives to house parties do college students in a college town have?

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