Ride along: An in-depth look at code enforcement in Columbus

The division and its officers play a bigger role in the city than you might think. Join Margaret Lafferty on a day in the field for an in-depth look into code enforcement.

In most cities, there is a code dictating what is and isn't allowed. Much of the code is focused on how properties are developed or maintained. That means enforcing the code can have an impact on how the city as a whole grows and changes, which is especially true in disinvested areas. Yet, the enforcement process often goes unseen.

Code Enforcement Officer Margaret Lafferty is responsible for enforcing the city code on Sullivant Avenue, a major corridor on the west side of Columbus, Ohio. In recent years, Sullivant has received renewed attention, including a program announced by Mayor Andrew Ginther during his 2020 state of the city address that assigned Lafferty to Sullivant.

Columbus Code Enforcement Officer Margaret Lafferty explains the process of a property inspection for reporter Jaelynn Grisso on Sullivant Avenue.
Columbus Code Enforcement Officer Margaret Lafferty explains the process of a property inspection for reporter Jaelynn Grisso on Sullivant Avenue.Max Wrolstad

I spent a day riding along with Lafferty to see the work of code enforcement first-hand and learn the practices, thoughts and views of one the division's officers.

"There's no lie that we're sitting on Sullivant, and it's not Bexley. You know, it's not. But I'm also not overexaggerating the code to where the standard is above what I'm enforcing," Lafferty said. "My overall job isn't to change the property value. My job is to make sure that the properties maintain at a minimum level. That's the same thing I would enforce in my neighborhood, and it's the same thing I would enforce in Clintonville. It's the same thing I would enforce when I was on Brentnell, and it's the same thing I enforce over here."

Watch the video above to learn more about Lafferty's work and the role code enforcement plays in the city.

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