Addressing Community Complaints

We see a lot of comments on various Facebook pages and the office receives countless calls and emails from residents. The post Covid world seems to have opened the floodgates and what has come pouring out are complaints, caustic online posts and general all-around unhappiness. It takes time to sort through the petty neighborhood feuds and keyboard warrior comments to get to things that are legitimate items of concern that the township is responsible for addressing.  In this post, I want to talk about identifying when your concern is worth taking to the Township, how to do it and living with the aftermath.

  1. Determine if you really have a problem. Are you simply annoyed at your neighbor or the township and want to vent your frustration? Did your neighbor call the police when your dogs were barking and now you want to get even? Or does the issue cause YOU an actual present-day problem?
  2. Just the facts, mam. Make a list of how the problem is impacting you or your property. Be realistic and truthful. Don’t make things sound worse than they are. Your neighbor’s grass is 15 inches high. Did you really see a rat and a snake or is it just an eyesore? If the problem violates a township ordinance, the township will act the same whether you write a five-page letter and threaten to go to the newspaper or send a simple email asking for help.
  3. Is there anything you can do to solve the problem without involving the Township? Before you click send on that complaint, ask yourself what could be causing the issue. Is your neighbor ill, going through a divorce or a military deployment, or has lost their house to foreclosure? Are they first time property owners in the suburbs? Can you have a chat with them or offer to help them? Maybe they need an hour of babysitting so they can get the grass mowed now that their spouse has been deployed to Afghanistan. Maybe they don’t know there is even a problem. Talking things over with your neighbor before you make a complaint could keep the peace and save Township time and money. I cannot stress enough how important this step is. We are a community and should be able to communicate with each other and work to help one another, not fight between ourselves.
  4. All else has failed. So, you still want to make a complaint.
    1. Do it in writing to the township. Don’t post it on Facebook and wonder why nothing is being done. We aren’t computers constantly monitoring social media. The Township accepts complaints by phone, mail, in person and through the Report a Concern link on the website.
    2.  Keep your complaint simple. Provide the basic facts and leave out the color commentary. Maybe the neighbor’s weeds are atrocious with a capital A, but all the Township needs to know is that they are over 12 inches tall.
    3. We also need your name and contact information in case there are additional questions, the street address of the property you are complaining about. If you are being impacted, include a brief statement such as the high grass is an eyesore and we have seen an increase in mosquitoes.
    4. Do not embellish. Statements like the tall grass is lowering my property value and the neighborhood children are in danger of contracting West Nile Virus can’t be proven and makes you sound like a bit of a drama llama.
  5. What happens next? The complaint is filed, and you don’t see any action. Before picking up the phone again or sending a rude email, realize that all things take time. The township must complete an investigation, make contact with the property owner if there is a violation to the ordinance and give the property owner time to bring the property into compliance. As a rule, fifteen to thirty days is the norm before a second notice goes out. If the second notice is also disregarded, the Township must write a citation and appear before the District Justice.
  1. The end result isn’t exactly what you hoped for. Now your neighbor mows his grass every other week and leaves the clippings lay. His lawn is covered in dead brown clippings, and he blows them onto the street, and you think you even saw him blowing them towards your property. Plus, his wife won’t even say hello to you anymore. None of those things are a violation of the Township Ordinances and if you call the Township, while we may commiserate with you that your life is terrible, it’s just not within our power to solve private property disputes. Talk to one another, break down social barriers. Explain why something is bothering you and if they say no, be the better person and let it be. Things can only get worse by lashing out in response. I want to leave this post with a reminder from Fred Rogers, because we could all do to try and be a good neighbor.

“There are three ways to find ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” -Fred Rogers