DPIE Under Construction Newsletter, October 2021

Under Construction Masthead - Photos of blueprints, licenses, enforcement, construction inspections, hard hat and DPIE logo

October 2021

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Message from the Director

DPIE Director Melinda Bolling

Happy Fall!

As we pack up summer and prepare for winter, we ask you to take a look at your property and make changes to bring it into compliance. Our Beautify and Comply program urges you to address property maintenance violations as you ready your property for each season. When you are outside raking leaves, planting spring bulbs and putting away summer fixtures, take note of needed repairs and fix them. Well-maintained homes protect your investment and the aesthetic value of our communities. See the graphic below for details on property maintenance standards. Visit the Enforcement page on the DPIE website at dpie.mypgc.us for more information.

Let’s keep Prince George’s County beautiful by ensuring our properties are code compliant!

DPIE Director Melinda Bollings signature blockBeautify your property and bring it into code compliance flyer, pics of leaf and orange flowersspacer bar between articles, no image, no text

DPIE Inspectors Take to the Sky to Seek Out Hidden Code Violations

This abandoned property was discovered during an Aerial Enforcement Program (AEP) flight. pic of overgrown vegetation covering house and property

Aerial Enforcement and Drone Programs Identify Problem Properties

There’s nothing quite as annoying to a code enforcement inspector as being restricted from the area where violations are occurring. Tall fences, rugged terrain and dense woods can hide infractions from inspectors’ view, making it difficult for them to take the scofflaws responsible to task.

Two new DPIE programs are making it easier to find hidden problems:  the Aerial Enforcement Program (AEP) and the Drone Inspections Program (DIP). The AEP allows property maintenance inspectors to fly in helicopters with Prince George’s County Police Aviation Unit pilots to look for violations. Two weeks ago, inspectors from the Inspections and Enforcement teams were trained to use drones to assist with code enforcement. Under the DIP program, DPIE staff will be certified by the FAA to pilot drones over problem areas.

“These two programs are integral to our efforts to address unpermitted construction and other code violations,” said DPIE Director Melinda Bolling. "The aerial view will facilitate inspections we can’t do from the ground and provide photographic evidence the inspectors can take into adjudication hearings to provide documentation.”

Inspections Division Associate Director Behdad Kashanian, whose unit will operate one of two drones, called the technology “the best tool to help identify violations on properties where the owners or residents are trying to avoid detection.”

AEP code enforcement inspectors and police pilots discover properties in violation. pics of cars and boats hoardingspacer bar between articles, no image, no text
The Aerial Enforcement Program (AEP) and the Drone Inspections Program (DIP) make inspections more efficient, pics of police helicopter and drone

New Tools in the DPIE Enforcement Arsenal

Under current law, inspectors are forbidden to enter properties posted with "no trespassing" signs. To gain access to such properties requires inspectors to follow a lengthy process.

“By the time we get on the property, it can be 18 months later,” Kashanian said. “If it is a case involving unpermitted construction, the illegal construction can be completed, the house sold to an unsuspecting home buyer and the person responsible for the illegal construction will have moved away. The house with the 2,000 square-foot addition with the pool has been built with no permits and no inspections, and there is no one to hold responsible when the problems begin for the new owner.”

Before the aerial and drone programs, inspectors were limited to viewing properties on the County’s PGAtlas.com website. While PGAtlas is a viable tool, the drawings are not updated regularly, Kashanian said. The aerial inspections provide real-time evidence of violations.

Inspectors have identified more than 230 problem sites since taking to the skies with the police in August. The drone program, which officially begins this week, is expected to identify dozens of violations weekly. The drones travel up to 50 miles per hour, reach as high as 400 feet and have a sight range of a quarter of a mile.

Omobola Sokoya earned the nickname “Captain Moby” after training to fly drones; David Kamara works the controls.

DPIE’s New Crop of Pilots

Enforcement Inspector James Laws, who inspects commercial properties and shopping centers, has flown with the AEP and also trained to pilot the DPIE drones. Laws is a photography enthusiast who has owned two personal drones for years. A few years ago, he discussed with his supervisors the feasibility of using such technology to identify and photograph code violations.

He said the training program included five DPIE staff and eight police personnel. The training was taught by an FAA instructor and included information about the rules and regulations of operating inside the local restricted air space, FAA requirements and lessons on flying the drone.

“It was really comprehensive,” Laws said.

Construction Standards Inspector Juan Swann, of the Enforcement Division, said the DPIE staff are required to take a comprehensive test for certification. All inspectors who attend the training must be recertified every two years and must fly a drone every 90 days to keep their skills intact.

“It was cool,” Swann said laughing. “I ordered one last night. We will be called certified unmanned aircraft pilots. My two kids are really excited. My son, Logan, was saying, ‘Daddy, when can I fly it?’"

Inspector Juan Swann (left), of the Inspections Division, receives instruction on preparing a drone flight

New Era in Property Standards Enforcement

Swann said he immediately plans to use the drone to investigate complaints behind high fences of two large properties in Fort Washington and Temple Hills. One property owner is suspected of failing to complete repair work after a fire. The other is suspected of illegal grading.

Assistant Associate Director Chrystal Tibbs, of the Enforcement Division, described the AEP as “a great partnership with the Police Department’s Aviation Unit” that provides inspectors with a quick way to find numerous violations over a large area. The programs will also provide DPIE with additional tools to support the County's beautification initiative.

“Sometimes we receive complaints that require staff to check rural areas, which are difficult to inspect and hard for inspectors to access,” she said. “The use of the drones will allow our team to conduct more thorough investigations by allowing them to obtain views of various commercial and residential properties. The photos they get are also an asset for court presentations.”

DPIE IT Supervisor Ed Hall also attended the drone training. He will be considered the agency's drone tech expert. Hall said he thoroughly enjoyed the drone training and is now contemplating taking flying lessons. The training "demystified" the flight process, he said.

"It was much less daunting than I originally thought it would be," Hall said. "It's not something that's hidden knowledge anymore. It's not so intimidating. It went from being this great big mystery to something you know you can do."

DPIE Website Provides Shareable Information to Help Community Leaders, Neighbors Discuss Code Requirements

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Flyer with list of DPIE publications

Are you a homeowners’ association officer interested in offering information about frequent code violations to your members? Are you a resident who wants to help your neighbors figure out which home-improvement projects require permits? Are you an apartment building owner who is concerned that a resident may be putting himself at risk by operating a café out of his unit? DPIE has information that can assist in each of these cases. The agency publishes a number of printable "one-pagers" with helpful information. As the agency works to reduce litter and be more responsible stewards of the environment, we are printing fewer documents. However, we are making information available that can be used and shared on our Publications page. Visit the DPIE website at dpie.mypgc.us. Click on RESOURCES on the left side of the page, then click on PUBLICATIONS. A list of documents will appear. The documents are available in English and Spanish. Share them prominently, but print them sparingly!

DPIE QR code for list of flyers in English

Information for Citizens and HOA/Civic Groups

You may also click on the QR code to access the documents. For more information, email dpiepio@co.pg.md.us.

Información para ciudadanos y grupos cívicos/HOA

También puede hacer clic en el código QR para acceder a los documentos. Para obtener más información, envíe un correo electrónico a dpiepio@co.pg.md.us.

DPIE QR code for list of publications in Spanish

Clean It and Lien It!

Program Purges Properties of Debris

3 Before clean up photos of wrecked car, trash and debris in yard, and sink, tires and trash around house

A wrecked black car sat immobile in front of the house. The back yard was littered with everything from construction materials to old sinks and a bathtub. A complaint alleged the property was an eyesore. DPIE inspectors utilized a program called “Clean It and Lien It!” to change the landscape. A contractor was hired to remove debris and open storage from the lot. The car was towed. A lien was placed on the property requiring the owner to reimburse the County for the cost of the work.

Violation properties such as the house in Upper Marlboro, above, anger neighbors and frustrate inspectors. Picturesque neighborhoods are blighted by unkempt properties. Each month, DPIE responds to dozens of complaints from residents reporting property maintenance violations at the homes of their neighbors:  trash littering yards, broken window screens and doors, sagging downspouts and siding, etc.

“Clean It and Lien It!” addresses such violations when the owners fail to act.

“Trashy lots have a detrimental effect on whole neighborhoods,” DPIE Director Bolling said. “One person will trash up their lot, then another around the corner will follow suit. Eventually, you will have several lots with trash and debris.”

DPIE works to protect neighborhoods. Report property maintenance violations to PGC311. Properties that qualify for “Clean It and Lien It!” will be cleared. Visit the Enforcement page at dpie.mypgc.us for more information about property maintenance.

Clean it and Lien it - 3 After clean up photos of car being towed, trash removed from yard, sink, tires and trash removed from around house.spacer bar between articles, no image, no text

Community Partners' Meetings presented in English and Spanish

Community Partners' Meeting presentation cover with fall background thumbnail

Fall 2021 Virtual Community Partners’ Meeting Draws Almost 200

DPIE recently partnered with the Department of the Environment (DoE) and the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) to present the Fall 2021 Virtual Community Partners’ Meeting. Almost 200 County staff, community leaders and residents participated in the meeting, which provided news and information on the three agencies’ programs and initiatives. The Office of Community Relations also made a presentation about the new PGC311 system. Click on the image to access the written presentations from all four agencies. Email dpiepio@co.pg.md.us for questions or to be added to the list of those who receive notifications of the meetings.

Spanish Community Partners' Meeting presentation cover with blue swirls thumbnail

Virtual Community Meeting in Spanish Provides Information about DPIE Programs

DPIE recently held a virtual Community Partners’-style meeting in Spanish. The meeting provided detailed information about the agency’s various divisions, services offered and new programs. Those on the call were also introduced to Spanish-speaking agency staff. A Q&A session provided attendees with answers to questions related to agency operations, policies and procedures. Click the image to access the meeting PowerPoint presentation. Another Spanish meeting will be held in spring 2022. Email dpiepio@co.pg.md.us for questions or to be added to the list of those who receive notifications of information in Spanish.  

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New Process for County Health Permits and Licenses

The Prince George’s County Health Department is transitioning to Momentum, a new online permitting and licensing system. In preparation for the transition, all paper and online applications for the categories listed below MUST be received by close of business on October 12, 2021. If your application or renewal is not received by October 12, 2021, you must wait until October 25 to submit. Any Health paper applications received after October 12 will not be processed and will be returned to you by mail.

Beginning October 25, 2021, the following Health permit and license applications must be submitted in the new Momentum system:

  • Public swimming pool/spa licenses
  • Pool operator licenses
  • Scavenger company and vehicle licenses
  • Agricultural well certifications
  • Open burn permits
  • Food service facility permits/farmers market/mobile unit/temporary food service/vending machine
  • Food service manager certification and training 
  • Percolation test and percolation test contractor
  • Sewage contractor
  • Bay Restoration Fund applications

If you have any questions, email environmentalhealth@co.pg.md.us or call 301-883-7605.

New additions

New Hires

DPIE welcomes the following new hire and congratulates him on joining the team!  The new staffer has shared some information to help us get to know him and his start date.

welcome new employee Ellington Adams, Jr.

Ellington Adams, Jr., Enforcement Division — Property Standards Inspector I/II, 8/30/2021

Ellington is a highly accomplished and driven individual who enjoys tackling complicated tasks and finding the best solution.  He has a proven track record as a team player.  He has excellent customer service skills and is excited about joining the DPIE family.

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Employee of the Month

Ted Jeong as the Employee of the Month

DPIE Congratulates Ted Jeong
of the Site/Road Plan Review Division

Ted Jeong is an Engineer II and is being recognized as a pillar of professionalism and excellence. Ted is a team player who exhibits outstanding customer service skills. His positive attitude, superb level of expertise, commitment to due diligence and strong work ethic have benefited the external customers, as well as DPIE. Ted's dedicated service is much appreciated by his supervisor and colleagues.

DPIE commends Ted for his exceptional performance!

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Growing Green with Pride

Growing green with pride flyer advertising beautifying the county with a day of planting, weeding and mulching, pic of lady planting flowersspacer bar between articles, no image, no text

Get Vaccinated

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