Maplewood code enforcer visits HNA

Photo by Shanee Frazier
At the May 17 Hilton Neighborhood Association meeting are, from left, HNA board member Jim Buchanan, Maplewood Township Committeeman Dean Dafis, Maplewood code enforcement supervisor John Singleton, HNA President Carol Buchanan and Mayor Vic DeLuca.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Members of the Hilton Neighborhood Association received firsthand knowledge about the current zoning codes being enforced in Maplewood thanks to a visit from Maplewood code enforcement supervisor John Singleton at their monthly meeting on May 17 at the DeHart Center on Burnett Avenue in Maplewood.

Coding enforcement is handled through the Maplewood Building Department, the goal of which is to assure the health and safety of the people who use any structures in the township. This is accomplished by enforcing rules laid down by the Uniform Construction Code as adopted by the state of New Jersey, the Maplewood Zoning and Development Ordinance, property maintenance code and other regulations adopted by the township.

In addition to serving as the code enforcement supervisor, Singleton — a longtime Maplewood resident — said that he, like everyone else at the meeting, he has a personal vested interest in maintaining coding regulations in town.

“We have a beautiful town here, and our team strives to keep it that way,” he said. “Myself and three full-time inspectors are a small team, but we do our best to make sure that everything gets done.”

The building department is tasked with overseeing construction code, zoning code enforcement, property maintenance enforcement, rental registration enforcement, and resale inspection of property prior to sale or re-occupancy.

Singleton’s presence at the meeting was an opportunity for community members to ask questions and gain some clarity on what issues his department has jurisdiction over, and what solutions and avenues are open to residents with concerns.

A popular question among those present was how the department handles residents who are not maintaining the upkeep of their properties, which in turn reflects poorly on the rest of the neighborhood.

Singleton described the process in which the town sends the owners a letter requesting that maintenance and upkeep be done within a specified time frame, and if the resident does not comply, eventually they receive a summons from the township.

“Our goal is to work with the residents though, and we would rather they spend their money to fix their homes, not in court,” he said. “There are situations where residents simply can’t afford all of the maintenance that is needed for their home, especially those on fixed income. We will work with them and if necessary give them more time to complete the repairs.”

Singleton also advised that his team is responsible for ensuring that contractors at the various building sites follow the Maplewood codes. Many in attendance at the meeting voiced concerns of trash and debris being found at local construction sites.

Raised sidewalks, fence heights and overgrown hedges were also brought up during the discussion, and Singleton advised that his department works closely with the Department of Public Works to address these issues.

“We routinely ask township officials to come to the meetings and we have never had the code enforcement there. Different people come based on what the meeting is about and different topics bring out different people, so we thought asking someone from the building department would be a good idea,” HNA President Carol Buchanan said in a recent phone interview. “People are always asking what you are allowed to do, so we thought it would be good to hear the information from someone in code enforcement.

“I was glad to hear that different people including me had a chance to tell the supervisor some of the things that have been bothering them. I mentioned the lawn next to the Dollar Store and my husband went by the next day and it was mowed,” she continued. “Everyone has good intentions for keeping Maplewood a beautiful town, and I think John Singleton is a person who will get the things done that need to get done. It’s good to see the people who we call about our concerns. It’s good for us to get to know the department heads on a more personal level and meet the people who work on our behalf.”