Grove rules on infractions inch forward

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005

Washington Grove moved closer Monday night to finding a way to implement a proposed municipal infractions ordinance, a measure most agree is acceptable but for how it may address violations existing at the time the law would pass.

Of the two options debated last week at a public hearing, the town’s Planning Commission says it supports the one that would exempt only some ‘‘pre-existing” violations from enforcement as opposed to all such violations, which the other option offers.

The option backed by the commission—dubbed ‘‘partial grandfathering”—would give the town six months from the law’s passing to identify violations that are ‘‘correctable without hardship” and to notify owners, who would then have 18 months to remedy them.

It would also allow owners to appeal a decision that their property is a pre-existing violation and argue for exemption.

The other option would be to exempt all violations existing at the time the ordinance passes—”full grandfathering”—as long as no ‘‘material increase” of the violation is found, meaning it would be exempt as long as the violation didn’t get worse.

The ordinance would allow the town to levy civil fines and collect them through District Court rather than going to criminal court, a costly and time-consuming option that is rarely used and thus currently leaves the town with few options in enforcing its own laws.