No one likes a bad neighbor. Even worse than tanking your property values, bad neighbors can stymie your quality of life. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, it’s going to cost more to be a really bad neighbor.
The Prince George’s County Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would double the fine for violations heard by the Nuisance Abatement Board from $500 to $1,000. The final vote came with no discussion, following a hearing last month that generated only a minimal amount of discussion.
That’s because the council agreed the increased fines are needed, including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who pushed for the bill.
“It goes to help the county executive’s beautification efforts and we believe that by doubling the fine, we’ll have more compliance with the orders that have been issued by the board,” said Melinda Bolling, the director of the Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement at last month’s hearing.
The fines issued by the board aren’t doled out because someone lets their grass grow too high or they left trash cans on the curb for too long. Typically, these are properties where activities involve drugs, prostitution or other forms of illegal and unpermitted businesses operate.
In recent years the county issued close to $50,000 in fines by the board, but collected less than $12,000 of that which was assessed.
“I know the community has been sort of clamoring for the fines to be increased,” Council member Dannielle Glaros said at the hearing back in March. But some members of the council hope even more is done in the future.
“Something else has to happen to people, because people who are doing these things often just don’t care,” said Council member Jolene Ivey, who not only supported the bill but also penalties that go even beyond the $1,000 fines.
Bolling said the county is also weighing other tactics to crack down on those nuisance properties.
“We’ve been looking at additional enforcement efforts,” she said. “One of the ones is that after multiple, or more than one return trip to the Nuisance Abatement Board, we can seek criminal charges. So we’re going to seek test cases for that.”
Going through the court system and getting a judicial order to collect the penalty is also an option, though one that’s been slowed down by the backlogs courts around the area are facing because of the pandemic.
The new fines take effect 45 days after the bill is signed into law.