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VALLEY FOCUS | Westlake Village

More Violations May Be Subject to Fines

March 30, 1998|SYLVIA L. OLIANDE

In an effort to have a firmer hand in enforcing its municipal codes, the city of Westlake Village is considering increasing the number and variety of violations that carry a fine.

While officials said blatant and persistent violations are rare in the city, council members said they wanted to be able to do something to deter people.

The plan would take a giant step in adding teeth to city ordinances, said Mayor Kris Carraway-Bowman. "But we don't want to push [violators] to an extent that we are going to court."

When the Planning Department investigated the code regulations, it found that officials would have greater control over enforcement if the code included more violations in a list of infractions, said Scott Wolfe, the city's associate planner.

The municipal code requires that violations be prosecuted as misdemeanors unless they are identified as infractions. Under the former process, people are cited without a fine three times before they are threatened with prosecution.

Wolfe said that without a monetary deterrent, violators generally continue the action until they are contacted by a prosecuting attorney.

However, if the code violation is identified as an infraction, city officials are able to fine people at every stage before it reaches court, he said.

The fines increase from $100 for the first violation to $200 for a second and $500 for each subsequent violation within a year. After a third citation, the city has the option of prosecuting.

Only a few codes, such as parking and animal control, bring infractions, Wolfe said. Others that might soon be included are illegal signage, storage of abandoned vehicles on property and failure to maintain landscaping in commercial areas.

The council, which instructed the city's Planning Department to recommend other codes for the infraction list, is expected to hear the issue again at a meeting in April.

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