Council takes tough stance on nuisances

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shelley Smith
A public hearing on the city’s adoption of an ordinance amendment on nuisances, (Chapter 14) , was held at Tuesday’s Salisbury City Council meeting.
The council voted in favor of the amendment, which defines a chronic violator as the following:
“A person who owns property whereupon, in the previous calendar year, the city gave notice to abate at least three times under any provision of this nuisance ordinance.”
According to Section 14-9, Chronic Violators, violators will be be fined through a lien upon their property, and the monies will be collected as unpaid taxes.
The second time someone violates the nuisance ordinance, they must pay $500.
Gretta Conner, a resident of Sedgefield Acres, expressed her concern with oversized vehicles, saying an oversized vehicle deteriorates a neighborhood.
“We try to maintain our property, do what is right, to enhance Salisbury,” said Conner. Conner said that if one neighbor is allowed to park oversized vehicles, all neighbors will think that it is okay.
“I’d like for the city to look closely at this and take immediate action against this,” said Conner of the oversized vehicles and loud motors running. “Don’t allow the reoccurrance.”
Clyde Overcash of Bank Street thanked Code Services Manager Chris Branham for the new policies.
“They are working,” said Overcash. “The policies are in place, the fines are in place” however, Overcash had a problem with the $500 fine.
“If he doesn’t have the $75 to pay (for the first violation), he doesn’t have the $675,” he said. “I don’t think $500 is going to make a difference. It’s not going to help them change their minds.”
Overcash recommended writing the slum lords.
“They are the biggest nuisance we have and no one’s done anything about that,” he said.
Dan Wagoner, a property manager, also spoke during the public comment section.
“What does this do to those who rent?” he asked the council.
“Under the current ordinance, notification is made based on tax record,” said Joe Morris, City Planning director. “In current ordinance, there is no methodology in dealing with tenants.”
“Neighborhoods are getting tired of this (the nuisances),” said Councilman Mark Lewis, who said neighborhoods are starting to come together to fight the nuisances, and praised Branham’s department for their work.
“I personally think the citizens have spoken,” said Lewis.
The public hearing was closed, and the council voted to adopt the ordinance amendment.
Before the public comments began, the possible closing of the Horah Street at-grade railroad crossing was addressed.
Wendy Brindle, a traffic engineer for the City of Salisbury, said that in 2006 the Department of Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railroad met with the city to discuss the Horah St. railroad closing. In 1996, a railroad study was conducted, and nine railroad at-grade crossings have been closed since.
Brindle said the government was to give a $42,000 incentive payment to the city, which was recommended to be used for Lincoln Park. A public hearing is scheduled for Dec. 15, and representatives from DOT and Norfolk Southern Railroad will be present.
Councilman Bill Burgin voted against the hearing and closing.
“It puts our citizens out,” said Burgin. “I just cannot continue to watch them close them down without any relief. Citizens cannot cross from one side of town (to the next).
“They’re just going to sneak them in one at a time. We’ve given and given and there’s no relief in sight.”
Although Lewis voted for the public hearing, he believes the incentive is a way to buy his vote.
“It’s a good use of funds, but if it’s a good idea, why do they have to give us money?”
“It’s really a safety issue,” said Mayor Susan Kluttz. “But I understand Mr. Burgin’s point.”
The council then held its public comment period, starting with William Peoples, who spoke about the recent shooting involving a church bus.
“(My feelings) are disgust and anger,” said Peoples, who is a trustee and member of First Calvary Baptist Church, the victim of a mid-afternoon shoot-out at the Civic Apartments. “A church bus was caught in a crossfire of gun battle.”
“Whatever play that you had, it’s not working,” he told the council. “Does this kind of crime happen in your neighborhood?”
“This is a sad day in Salisbury when a church bus cannot drive down the street in Salisbury in broad daylight.
“Until we address these issues, we’re going to have escalating violence.”
Peoples asked the council to consider if someone had been hurt or killed.
“How could you explain that?” he asked. “How is it that we can only have six officers on patrol on Sunday afternoons?”
Speaking on access to city officials and recent flooding of his properties was Clyde Overcash.
Overcash thanked the council for the opportunity for public comments because he said he was “denied access to city officials.”
“They have not answered phone calls, they have not returned phone calls,” said Overcash.
Overcash also addressed recent flooding of his properties on Bank St., stating that it was the planning department’s fault.
“Last year, we all understood this water would come to my property,” he said, noting that the recently added and renovated parking lots created an “estuary” of overflow water, flooding three of his homes.
“We go to meetings, they don’t listen,” he said. “Now they’re blaming it on the contractor.” Overcash also stated that he would like to see the Zimmerman’s building to go to retail, which was its purpose, he said.
Kennedy asked Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm to address the recent crossfire involving the church bus.
“Sundays are slow,” he said, noting that on Sunday there were six officers and one supervisor on duty, which is the minimum staffing requirement.
Wilhelm noted that one or two people were off that Sunday, and at least one person was home sick. Wilhelm said the case has been handed to investigators.
“The information that I’ve received so far is that shots came from the porch of one house and two vehicles driving down the street,” said Wilhelm
Kennedy then asked someone to address the flooding issue.
City Manager David Treme stated that a letter has been sent to the construction contractor’s risk management department, and a claim has been made.
“We gave him (Overcash) the most help at the earliest time,” said Treme. “(The flooding) happened as a result of their working on the parking lot. The condition that Mr. Overcash has, it’s not a new condition,” he said, claiming it was the “lay of the land.”
Mayor Kluttz commented, saying that her office does not have an answering machine, but that her office is very open. She also noted a letter was sent to city employees about responses and response time to requests or questions from citizens.
In other Salisbury City Council news:
– The Salisbury High School Lady Hornets Tennis Team was recognized by the council for their recent 2A State Championship win. They also recognized State 2A champ Hannah Lebowitz. Nov. 17, 2009 was officially named the Salisbury High School Ladies Hornets Tennis Day.
– The new park at 223 N. McCoy Rd was officially named Foil-Tatum Park, and plans were presented to the council and adopted.