Spencer Board of Aldermen approves new housing ordinance

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — The Spencer Board of Aldermen approved a new housing ordinance at their meeting on Tuesday.

The board usually meets on the second Tuesday of the month, but rescheduled the meeting to this week because the town hall served as a polling place last Tuesday.

According to Troy Powell, land management director, the previous housing ordinance for the town was missing things and was in need of an update.

The new ordinance provides more detail and expanded definitions for the property maintenance standards and also works to keep houses from getting to a deteriorated or dilapidated state.

Powell mentioned the Broken Windows Theory as a reason for updating the code, which states that “one broken window, left unrepaired, leads to more broken windows as it gives the appearance that no one cares for or protects the property; that the building becomes increasingly more deteriorated, and that the deterioration may have a ripple effect on other parts of the neighborhood,” according to the ordinance.

“Bringing attention to those (houses) is going to increase the marketability of the town,” Powell said.

Mayor Jim Gobbel said a new housing ordinance for the town was long overdue.

“This is a tool that cuts out a lot of the gray area that we’ve had to deal with,” he said.

Powell and the staff used versions of Salisbury’s housing ordinance and ordinances of other locations to develop an ordinance that suited Spencer.

“We had the ability to write a code that works for us,” Powell said.

An independent contractor was also hired from State Code Enforcement Inc. to help the town deal with 23 of the worst structures. Dennis Pinnix, owner, and Curtis Gaulden, field supervisor, will be the only two employees from the company performing work and they will only be allowed to evaluate houses that Powell assigns to them.

The vehicles Pinnix and Gaulden drive will have the town’s logo and their company name on them and they will also have town-issued identification.

According to the new ordinance, property owners will now have to submit their vacant properties to a vacant structure inventory.

Powell said it is important to have a list of how many vacant houses are in the town. Code officers and the police department will also be able to use the list to keep an eye out for unauthorized people entering vacant homes.

“It’s a proactive measure that’s been included in the code,” Powell said.

There is no charge for submitting the houses to the inventory list. Property owners can visit town hall, at 600 S. Salisbury Ave., or  email Troy Powell at lmddir@ci.spencer.nc.us to fill out the information for their vacant house to be placed on the list.

The code also changes the classification of neglected and abandoned houses. If a neglected or abandoned house goes 12 months without code violations, it will then be considered a vacant structure and go on the inventory list.

The code still allows the windows and doors of vacant houses to be boarded up, but the plywood must be placed inside the frame of the window and be painted black with a white crosshair. Plywood placed in doorways must be painted white.

Properties will not be allowed to be boarded up for more than two years. After six months, the owner must present code enforcement with a plan to repair the structure if repairs are not being done already.

Property owners also have the option of placing clear windows from the company Secure View in their vacant homes, which would allow the house to be boarded up for more than two years.

For historic homes, the new ordinance allows the Historic Preservation Commission to consider granting extensions based on the owner having completed at least 50 percent of the repair work.

The ordinance also changes the penalties for noncompliance. The penalty for not correcting a violation before the assigned deadline is now $250 for the first day. If the violation is still not fixed after another deadline set by the housing inspector, $50 will be charged per day until the violations are fixed.

“The whole goal is … don’t reach that penalty at all. Just work with the officer,” Powell said.

The new ordinance took effect on Tuesday. Any cases that were opened before Tuesday will still operate under the previous code and cases opened after Tuesday will operate under the new code.

Property owners have a grace period of 90 days, which started on Tuesday, to add their vacant houses to the inventory list and to board up the broken windows and missing doors of vacant houses.

The new ordinance will be available on the town’s website, www.ci.spencer.nc.us.

In other business, the board:

  • Heard reports from town departments. Powell said the town’s website has been updated. He also introduced new storm water brochures, which will serve as citizen guides. Code officers and police officers will be on the look out for grass clippings and leaves placed on the street instead of the curb, but will focus on educating the community before issuing any citations.
    Walters said the work on Spencer Woods is on schedule and within the budget. He also mentioned that the Walgreens in town has closed as a result of nationwide consolidation, but after assessment of the market value he expects another pharmacy to move to the area.
    Duke Energy has started equipping homes with energy-saving products. A map of the company’s target area will be available online, but the public is welcome to ask for the available products if they see the Duke Energy trucks around town.
    The Spencer Police Department is working on getting a Share the Road grant that will provide up to 100 bike helmets for the department to give out to local children.
  • Approved liens to be placed on properties, including ones at the 100 block of 10th Street, the 600 block of Long Ferry Road, the 400 block of Forestdale Drive, and the 800 block of Fifth Street.
  • Directed staff to prepare ordinances and appointment recommendations to combine the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment into one body to be presented at the meeting in December.
  • Appointed Judy Stoner and Nick Bishop to the Historic Preservation Commission.
  • Advised Beverly McCraw, the town librarian, to fill out the appropriate application with town staff and return before the board to seek approval for the Literary Arts Festival and Music Jam being held at the Library Park on April 22.
  • Authorized Susan Morris, accounts payable clerk, to sign town checks.
  • Approved budget amendments to incorporate donations for Spencer Woods and a streetscape project on Main Street, as well as the down payment for a garbage truck bought in the last budget cycle.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.