In response to resident's concerns regarding residential overcrowding violations, the office of community development has hired two new community inspectors to focus on resolving overcrowding issues.
"Our hope, in our initial proposal to the town manager, was to respond to the town council's apparent desire to be more effective in enforcing the zoning ordinance requirements in our residential areas," said Henry Bibber, director of community development for the town. "We thought we needed two people to keep up with the complaints."
Vincent Diem, senior community inspector, said it is hard to decifer whether overcrowding violations have increased in the last five years, or if residents are paying more attention now, compared to previous years.
"There were concerns that maybe more needs to be done," said Charlie Waddell, resident and president of the Herndon Community Association Coalition. "The conclusions were we need more staff - and that's just relaying resident's concerns."
Bibber explained initially the fiscal year 2004-05 budget was proposed to include the hire of one community inspector and one assistant inspector to help with overcrowding, but when the primary review was completed the assistant inspector position was removed.
But Bibber said they never excluded the possibility of another new hire, and told the town council to expect an amendment for the budget at the mid-year review.
Now, a quarter of the way into the fiscal year, the department of community development requested a reallocation of the budget, which was approved by the town council at their Sept. 14 session, to include the second position.
"We started with a proposed budget with two individuals, then cut the two to one," said Bibber, explaining that the money for the second position was already included in this year's budget. "But then we had two qualified individuals, so we looked at the budget and went back to the previous proposition."
Bibber said the town has tried to quickly address the issues of overcrowding with the amendment of a zoning ordinance that defines family and the addition of more staff to implement to new ordinance.
"I recognize that [the town] accomplishes a lot," said Waddell, adding that the work they did on the "family" ordinance was pivitol in resolving overcrowding issues. "But people's perceptions are that more could be done."
Bibber said on average the town receives 10 to 15 overcrowding violation complaints a month and at least that many other violations, although he said those complaints are easier to deal with than overcrowding.
Diem said that on average if the town received around 15 violation complaints a month, they usually are able to only resolve 10 by the end of the month.
"Those investigations can be extensive as far as the time it takes to investigate and resolve," said Diem about overcrowding violations. "Dealing with where and how somebody lives is not as simple to resolve as ... making sure a vehicle is not parked on the grass."
As head supervisor to the new hires, Diem said their primary role will be to deal with the issues of overcrowding, while the other inspectors will focus on vehicle violations and other ordinance violations.
Bibber and Diem said Rochac and Pace were the right fit for the positions, Rochac because of her involvement with the community, being a town resident and being a native Spanish speaker, and Pace for his military background and work as an investigator for private companies.
"We have found with these two, they are a perfect match," said Diem. "With [Rochac] being a native Spanish speaker and having been involved with the Neighborhood Resource Center and public outreach, that's going to be one of the key elements to make sure we communicate with everyone on the town codes."
Agreeing with Diem, Bibber said the important thing for resolving the issues of overcrowding is the proper education of the community.
"We have found that communicating with the town residents is essential," said Bibber. "We need to have some people who can speak and write Spanish to accomplish that."
Bibber said the town does have staff that works on Spanish communications, but that Rochac will offer even more assistance in the community.
Waddell said he tries to communicate resident's concerns with Diem or other town staff once a month, but he said he never imagined the town would act so quickly to hire new personnel to address resident's concerns of overcrowding.
"To see it come to where it is today, I am grateful and heart warmed both in respect to needs being met, and as working as a collective unit with town staff," he said.
New community inspector David Pace began his work Aug. 5, and Fermina Rochac will begin Sept. 27 with the town.
The new inspectors have gone over town codes and ordinances with Diem, although Bibber said half their time will be spent in the field and half in the office, and that the best way for them to learn is to learn by experience.
"This is one of the things I am thrilled to see," said Waddell of the town's desire to resolve the overcrowding issues. "They are breaking new ground and dealing with this that is epidemic across the nation."