EO Code Enforcement addresses homeowner’s complaint

East Orange Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders, left, listens to a citizens complaint from Dorothy Barbour, who said she was recently cited by one of his enforcers for having her garbage can located in the front yard of her home inside her fence, instead of in her backyard or the side of her house, where the city's codebook said it's supposed to be.
East Orange Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders, left, listens to a citizens complaint from Dorothy Barbour, who said she was recently cited by one of his enforcers for having her garbage can located in the front yard of her home inside her fence, instead of in her backyard or the side of her house, where the city’s codebook said it’s supposed to be.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — Dorothy Barlow came to the East Orange City Council meeting on Monday, May 23, for answers as to why she had recently been cited for leaving her garbage can outside on her own property, as she has for the last 50 years.

“I’m here with notices of garbage can violation on the side of my house,” said Barlow on Monday, May 23, during the public participation portion of the meeting. “I couldn’t understand why I got the violation notice, with all of the other things that are going on with East Orange. People want to sell their houses, but Realtors don’t want to bring buyers out here, because they don’t think it’s safe.”

Barlow went on to note she is “asthmatic and, when I got the notice, I almost went into an asthma attack, because I try to keep my property up.” She concluded her remarks to the governing body by issuing a challenge.

“I’ve been doing this for 50 years; if you want to take me to court, then you go to do what you got to do,” said Barlow. “We need more people doing their job in East Orange than worrying about a garbage can on the side of a house.”

Fortunately for Barlow, East Orange Code Enforcement Director Dwight Saunders was at the council meeting, along with other department heads from Mayor Taylor’s administration. But unfortunately for Barlow, Saunders sided with his code enforcement inspector.

“Code enforcement is important, because it affects the quality of life of all the residents in the city,” said Saunders at the meeting. “It was only the right thing to do to cite her. … On Emerson Street, most of the houses there put their garbage on the side of the house, which is in strict violation of the City Code No. 159-62. But talking with the lady, the complaint came in from one of her neighbors. The complaint came in, I sent the inspector out, he addressed it, she complained that the inspector was targeting her and I said ‘no,’ because the inspector did the whole block. So everyone on that block got a notice.”

Saunders said the notice was for Barlow and her neighbors to move their garbage cans to the back of their houses, according to the city code. He said the only way she or her cited neighbors would only be on the right side of this issue if the council changed the existing code.

Other than that, Saunders said there is another, simpler way for Barlow and her neighbors to stay out of trouble with his inspectors in the future.

“If they want the code changed, present it to the City Council and the council are the ones that can change it,” said Saunders. “She said she’s been doing it for 50 years, but that just means that, for 50 years, she’s been wrong.

“There’s an easy solution: All she’s got to do is cover it up. The garbage can stay there. Just cover it up so it’s out of view. Put a partition up, just to block it from plain view. Out of sight, out of mind.”

Saunders said the solutions he suggested to Barlow might not be strictly according to the letter of the law in the city’s code-enforcement handbook, but he said he understands the reality of working with residents to find solutions, instead of fining them.

“I’m here to serve the people,” said Saunders. “I’m fair and I’m equitable and I’ve got a hands-on approach.”

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