By Susan Villman Index Correspondent
Ingleside on the Bay Mayor Cynthia Foster has instituted a city council workshop convening on the first Tuesday of every month to allow citizen feedback on council matters in a less restricted format than a formal council meeting would allow. Last night's workshop agenda included discussion of the revision of 5 city ordinances, including subjects from weeds and abandoned vehicles and boats to defining the powers and duties of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Park Board.
Despite lengthy discussion, all council members seemed to be in agreement with Foster that the council could not be subjective in code enforcement and that all aldermen had taken an oath to uphold the city's laws.
Initial pleas from Don Poenisch to “minimize ordinances and windstorm codes” and Bruce Thauburn to avoid a “rush to change ordinances impulsively” were met with opposing viewpoints.
Charotte Lawrence advised against minimum wind restrictions as we all live in a “post-Katrina” era where insurance is very different now. Marcie Counter felt that “our world is not the same as it was in 1972 or even 2000. Customs and laws must change and we must move with the times for our own safety.”
Mayor Foster stated that the fact that city ordinances had not been updated since 1992 creates problems in enforcement because city laws may reference state laws which are no longer in effect. Several of the 1992 vintage city regulations were very wordy and would benefit from simplification.
The council considered Item A: Relating to Regulation of Litter, Weeds, Rubbish, Carrion, Filth, and Care of Premises. Thauburn argued for allowance for “native growth” and “xeriscape sensitivity” and minimal fees for city-mandated mowing of overgrown property. Foster countered that the council could not be subjective in code enforcement and that the city did not wish to “be in the mowing business.” Therefore, higher fines should act as a deterrent. Wayne Jewell mentioned that no vegetation could grow up within 30 feet of a stop sign.
In consideration of Item B: Regulation on Abandoned and Junk Vehicles and Other Abandoned Property, the council addressed the definition of an antique auto, which is any vehicle over 25 years which will require a license plate but no inspection sticker. Alderman Howard Gillespie quoted the Transportation Code which defines an abandoned nuisance vehicle as at least 10 years old and left on public property or private property without consent of the property owner. After 30 consecutive days, a vehicle of at least 5 years may be declared “junk.” Gillespie offered to work on revising the wording of the ordinance for the next meeting.
Alderman Jimmie Morgan questioned the enforcement of this regulation, suggesting that a citizen call the sheriff or file suit for a remedy. Foster reminded him that the sheriff will not enforce IOB's ordinances and that writing repeated letters to violators is ineffective.
Morgan and Polly Garbutt argued for a written complaint form and authorization from the council before the code inspector could examine a possible violation. Foster felt that the city code enforcement officer should be free to investigate in all issues related to city ordinances, as that is what he is licensed to do. The other aldermen did not disagree.
Next, the council upheld the opinion that members of the Planning and Zoning Commission should be limited to 2 consecutive terms, unless no qualified applicants are available.
Item D addressed parking on city streets and boat storage. Foster felt that allowing any vehicle to park in a city street or alley created an obstruction for emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks and ambulances. Council members offered no disagreement.
Boats of 12 feet and under, which 2 people can lift, may be stored on personal property in compliance with FEMA regulations. Alderman Joe Garbutt volunteered to work on the verbiage relating to boat storage.
Finally, Gillespie stated that the Park Board would post a sign at the city park with all rules and regulations and that a list would be available at city hall.
Foster asked that Planning and Zoning and the Park Board submit budget requests by the first council meeting in April.
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