Enhanced code enforcement in Union Township helps clean up blight

The fight against blight is making headway in Union Township as officials renew their focus on code enforcement.

The township consolidated its building, rental housing, and zoning code enforcement in 2019 as the Community and Economic Development Department and hired Rodney Nanney as its director in January 2020 to oversee those units. Since his appointment, Nanney and his team have doubled down on cases involving blight such as overgrown weeds and junk vehicles in yards.

Rodney Nanney, Union Township Community and Economic Department Director.“It’s really about making sure we have a safe community and educating residents on what the rules say,” Nanney says. “For the most part, it’s common sense: If you do things like let your grass grow over a foot high or keep junk vehicles on your property, you’re going to affect your neighbors.”

Blight lowers property values, negatively impacts the economy, increases crime, and damages residents’ well-being and connection to their community, according to the Michigan Municipal League.

Code enforcement is one more way for Union Township leaders to ensure all residents enjoy a safe environment in which they can take pride.

When a resident or property owner is found in violation of an ordinance requirement, the administrator sends a letter to inform them of the violation and potential penalties, provides direction for corrective action, and establishes a reasonable time for completion. If corrections aren’t made, follow-up enforcement actions are taken until the violation is resolved.
Peter Gallinat, Union Township Zoning Administrator.
“We don’t issue very many municipal civil infraction tickets because we don’t want to go to court if we don’t have to,” Nanney says. “But the civil infraction process is one of the tools I’ve used elsewhere and found to be effective.”

Union Township Zoning Administrator Peter Gallinat says one of their more successful blight programs is controlling tall grass or weeds. Township ordinances say they cannot exceed 12 inches in height.

“Things are really moving in the right direction when it comes to enforcing our ordinances,” Gallinat says.

Nanney suggests residents call or email the township if they’re unsure about local zoning and property maintenance ordinances.

“Any resident – especially people who are new to the community and wonder if they can do X, Y, or Z – just ask. That’s what we’re here for,” he says. “It’s always better to ask ahead of time than to try to resolve after the fact.”