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Remedial Action Plan, Planning Board merger passed unanimously by Salisbury City Council

 

SALISBURY – Tuesday’s City Council meeting had a full agenda, with the meeting stretching on for nearly four hours.

But in those four hours, a lot got done.

The Remedial Action Plan was unanimously approved by the council, though the public-comment period that preceded the vote was a bit more hesitant.

The program focuses on reducing repetitive crimes in rental units by having landlords work together with the Police Department.

But one property manager who spoke at the meeting, Terry Francis, said that she doesn’t need the police to help her get control of her tenants.

“I don’t need this ordinance to solve my problems,” Francis said. “I don’t need to go to remedial classes to learn how to be a landlord.”

Francis was referring to meetings that landlords – or an assigned proxy – would be required to take part in if their properties surpassed a limit on crime that would be set by the new ordinance.

Under the ordinance, landlords would be held responsible for reducing crime if a three-month limit was exceeded. The limit would vary by the type of crime and the number of dwellings on a property.

But Councilman Kenny Hardin said that, if people in Salisbury want to see a reduction in crime, they have to stop relying solely on police.

“When I look at the entire context of what we’re trying to deal with to alleviate, reduce and assuage crime in the city, it’s a bit disingenuous to me to hear criticism about one piece of the puzzle that we’re trying to put to try and reduce that crime,” Hardin said just before the vote. “I think the landlords have to bear the responsibility; the tenants have to bear the responsibility.”

The RAP program is voluntary for all landlords to participate in up until the point that their properties have more reported crime than allowed. At that point, landlords must meet with the city and come up with a remedial action plan to figure out how to best reduce the repetitive crimes.

Landlords would not be fined unless they refused to show up at the meeting, did not enact the remedial action plan or provided misleading crime data to the city.

The program will not begin until Nov. 1 because it requires crime data from the previous three months to determine compliance. The Police Department will begin tracking crime data for rental units on Aug. 1.

Other items discussed at the meeting included:

  • The council voted unanimously to merge the Planning Board and what will now be called the Board of Adjustment.

The merger will mean that members of the Planning Board will now also be members of the Board of Adjustment, although the two boards are still distinct entities.

Development and Code Services Manager Preston Mitchell said the merger is “no reflection on the volunteers for the ZBA.”

“It is absolutely critical that the Board of Adjustment be well-trained on quasijudicial proceedings. So the reason why many other smaller communities or cities in North Carolina have gone to this joint situation is that their planning boards, like ours, practice (quasijudicial) on a more regular basis,” Mitchell said.

As a result of the vote, Zoning Board of Adjustment members will be relieved of their positions, although they can apply to be on the Planning Board.

  • Police Chief Jerry Stokes gave an update primarily on crime and staffing.

He said the department is currently 85.2 percent staffed, with two more officers pending, depending on whether they pass medical exams.

He said that, in general, violent crime is down 5.6 percent, compared to this time in 2016. Things that fall into that category include homicides and aggravated assault without a gun.

But he said aggravated assault with a gun is up 92.3 percent since this time in 2016. This year, there have been 25 instances, compared with 13 at this time last year.

Stokes also mentioned that there has been a significant uptick in opioid abuse and overdoses, especially in the last 30 to 45 days.

He said the department is looking into getting Narcan, a medication that can be used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

 

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