Code Enforcement Officer James Lemoine snapped pictures of a half-dozen huge dirt piles dumped under Georgia Power Co. electric lines on a recent Friday. A resident had emailed the city the night before to complain.
Before he finished, a dump truck filled with more dirt pulled onto the site off Mount Vernon Way. Lemoine intercepted the driver and learned that a homeowner was paying for the dirt to level out a lot without a required permit. Lemoine turned the truck away and said his boss, Land Development Officer and Arborist Amanda Corr, would likely shut the project down.
Just a typical Friday morning in Dunwoody as a code enforcement officer, he said with a laugh.
Lemoine has been working as a code enforcement officer for the city just over year. He previously worked in Norcross and Lawrenceville. The type of complaints code enforcement officers handle varies with each city and with different demographics, he said.
“Here, it is signs galore,” he said. On that morning, he was responding to complaints about movie production signs in the right of way and a sign posted to a utility pole in Dunwoody Village.
During an annual report presentation to the City Council earlier this month, Lemoine said code enforcement removed approximately 1,500 signs from city right of way in the last year.
“I pulled some political signs from the right of the way the day before yesterday and there are more again,” he said while driving along Ashford-Dunwoody Road.
“Different candidates though,” he said. “It’s a daily ongoing battle during political season.”
The job is much more than signs.
Regular stops at the construction of Dunwoody Village townhomes ensure the developer is following proper erosion controls. A recent violation led to water contaminated with silt and construction debris seeping into a public creek behind the development.
A new company recently purchased the project, he said, and they are much better at following the strict erosion control guidelines — including a well-made detention pond that keeps stormwater on site and not in public streams.
Residents can make code enforcement complaints via the city’s website, or by calling the department and leaving a message. Emails are often sent to him and the community development director, he said. And many complaints are received from City Council members forwarding messages they receive from residents.
“I like not sitting at a desk every day. I like to get out in the field,” he said. “This job is not monotonous. It’s challenging but rewarding.”
Last year, 44 citations were issued in Dunwoody totaling nearly $22,000 in fines.
Lemoine emphasized that his job is not about targeting people or businesses.
“We don’t want to be Big Brother, but we also want to keep Dunwoody a desirable place to live and visit,” he said.
As for the piles of dirt, Lemoine said the city prefers to work with homeowners without citing them for violations. They are not as aware of the rules as contractors, he said.
“With a contractor, they would be given an immediate citation because they know better,” he said. “Sometimes the only way to make them comply is to make it cost money.”
While he may be well aware of what code violations are, he is not immune to making his own mistakes, he said.
He had a code enforcement officer come to his home in Gwinnett County to tell him his trash cans were in the wrong place. The code prohibited trash cans from being visible from the street. He moved the cans behind a pile of cut wood.
“You’ve got to follow the rules just like everyone else,” he said.