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Aerial photos won't be used to enforce county codes, Walsh says

5/14/2014, 8:20 p.m.
After much debate and accusations, Will County Executive Larry Walsh issued an order prohibiting county staff from using any form ...
Will County Executive Larry Walsh Will County

Will County Executive Larry Walsh released this statement Wednesday about his decision regarding the use of aerial photography as a code enforcement tool:

Will County Executive Larry Walsh today issued an Executive Order prohibiting the use of aerial photography to initiate any Will County Land Use enforcement actions. This issue has been debated for weeks by the County Board following allegations of improper use. Walsh noted that he wanted to address any concerns some residents may have regarding the use of this important tool in enforcing County laws.

“We have serious business to do at Will County and I have come to the conclusion that this issue has become a distraction that takes my staff away from important county business,” said Executive Walsh. “Today I have issued an Executive Order that reaffirms our policy that county personnel shall not use aerial photography as the basis of launching an investigation of violations of County Ordinances. This practice has never been utilized to my knowledge, and with this action, it never will under my administration.”

Walsh noted County policies state a complaint must be registered by a resident before county personnel will begin an investigation of alleged county ordinance violations. Will County uses this complaint driven process, rather than sending staff out on patrols to seek out violators. Aerial photography, and other such tools, have been used to investigate violations, but only in response to a resident complaint filed with the Land Use Department.

“As one of the fastest growing counties in the State of Illinois we have many challenges to efficiently serve the residents of Will County,” said Walsh. “Unfortunately, the use of aerial photography has been unfairly criticized when it really is nothing more than a tool that our Land Use department, local township assessors, emergency personnel, and many others use on a daily basis to effectively serve the taxpayers.”

Walsh hoped that his action will end the debate around this issue and allow the County Board and county employees to focus on more important concerns for local residents. While the issue of aerial photography was voted down at a previous County Board Judicial Committee meeting, the topic resurfaced at last week’s County Board Executive Committee meeting and was placed back on the May County Board meeting agenda.

“I am hopeful that the County Board will remove this item from its agenda for Thursday’s County Board meeting and we can move forward in a more positive direction,” said Walsh. “I am optimistic that we can continue our cooperative approach to enforcing county ordinances while preserving resident’s right to privacy.”