BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS/PLANNING & ZONING COMMISSION
JOINT WORK SESSION
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2000 7:00 P.M.
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners held a joint work session with the Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday, October 10, 2000 in the DSS Conference Room.
Chairman Watts stated that the purpose of this joint work session was to obtain dialogue between the two boards and that no action would be taken at this time.
MINIMUM HOUSING STANDARDS
Sylvia Turnmire, Director of Planning & Development, presented the proposed Minimum Housing Standards. The standards were reviewed and then comments were made.
Chairman Watts inquired about the procedure for a complaint.
Ms. Turnmire stated that before action could be taken, 5 individuals over age 18 would have to submit a complaint. Chairman Watts stated that a structure change needed to be made since 5 individuals could equal 1 household. Chairman Watts suggested changing the wording to 5 addresses.
Terry Foster, Planning & Zoning Commission stated that he had a problem with the Minimum Housing Standards and feels that no one has the right to remove someone out of their home. Mr. Foster stated that he would like to have some kind of standards for rental property and not personal homes since some people just simply cant afford to renovate their home to meet the Minimum Housing Standards.
Ms. Turnmire stated that if the County has Minimum Housing Standards for rental property, it must have them for all property due to discrimination issues.
Commissioner Odom stated that he was more concerned about homes that were an eye sore such as trailers with no underpinning, freezers and refrigerators sitting on porches and in yards, etc. Commissioner Odom stated that it was not only an eye sore but that it was also unsafe for children.
Ms. Turnmire stated that the with the Minimum Housing Standards adopted and in place, the Board of Commissioners can appoint an inspector to inspect unsafe homes. Ms. Turnmire also stated that for the Minimum Housing Standards to be put into effect within the Town limits, the Town of Taylorsville would also have to adopt them.
Commissioner Odom questioned whether or not the inspector would go to a home to do an inspection without a warrant.
Ms. Turnmire stated that if 5 complaints are made, that gives the inspector the authority to go into the home if the Minimum Housing Standards are in effect.
Chairman Watts asked if the inspector would call before coming or would he automatically go into the home without the owners permission.
Doug Kerley, Building Code Enforcer, stated that the inspector would call ahead of time and would set a time that would be good for the owner. The owner would be contacted first. Information regarding complaints would be given if the owner inquired but no information would be given voluntarily. .
Commissioner Bolick stated that he felt this should be a Health Department issue and not a Planning & Inspections issue. Commissioner Bolick also stated that a person could not be forced out of their home because it didnt look good, but if there was a serious health issue, action could be taken.
Commissioner Robertson stated that some items in the Minimum Housing Standards were too specific and felt that if these standards were adopted and put into effect, every house in Alexander County could be condemned. For example, the Minimum Housing Standards state that every structure is required to have 1 ½ gallon flush toilet. Commissioner Robertson stated that if the house was safe and the owners had a reasonable standard of living, a 1 ½ gallon toilet was really no big deal. Commissioner Robertson also mentioned plumbing and stated that some people in the County didnt have running water and didnt want it and felt that it would be wrong to condemn a house or fine someone because of it.
Chairman Watts asked if other counties had adopted the Minimum Housing Standards. Connie Killian, Planning & Zoning Commission, stated that Catawba County had not adopted the standards. The cities within Catawba County had adopted their own but the County had not. Ms. Killian stated that Iredell and Caldwell Counties had adopted the Minimum Housing Standards and that she wasnt sure about Wilkes County.
The standards also state that every home is required to have central and electric heating systems. Commissioner Odom stated that he did not agree with this because some people could not afford to have central and electric heating systems installed. Commissioner Robertson agreed and stated that as long as the method of heating was safe, it shouldnt matter what method of heat is used.
Mr. Foster stated that he was concerned about what would happen in an inspector found a problem with a home and the owners had no money to fix the problem.
Commissioner Bolick stated that he felt the Board of Commissioners should adopt a resolution that would stand as guidelines and allow the Health Department to make the determination as to whether there is a health problem instead of getting Planning & Inspections involved. Commissioner Bolick stated that he felt more comfortable with the problem being a health issue instead of an appearance issue.
Wendell Kirkman, Planning & Zoning Commission, inquired about the training that Health Department employees had and if they were trained to make house inspections.
Andy Baker, Planning & Zoning Commission, stated that he was sure the Health Department had authorization to make house inspections as far as health issues are concerned.
Commissioner Odom stated that he felt as long as there are no holes in the walls, the floors are not rotten, there are no safety issues, and no freezers sitting outside, there should not be a problem.
Mr. Baker stated that he felt the decision should be left up to several people, not just one.
Lloyd Jarvis, Planning & Zoning Commission, stated that he felt the Minimum Housing Standards would upset and violate many people. For example, a contractor wants to build a subdivision on another mans land but he wont sell. The contractor, his father, his brother, his sister, and his cousin file a complaint against the landowner. An inspection then takes place and the landowner possibly is forced to leave his home because of a violation. The contractor gets the land. Mr. Jarvis stated that it should not be that easy and felt that an appointed board should look over everything. When a complaint is made, the board should decide whether an inspection is in need, and if an inspection is made, the board should decide what needs to be done if violations of the Minimum Housing Standards are found.
Rick French, County Manager, stated that when he was employed with the City of Newton, there were very few complaints filed in regard to the Minimum Housing Standards and that the standards helped citizens more than it hurt them. If the Minimum Housing Standards are adopted and put into effect, there will be more CDBG grants available.
Commissioner Odom stated that he would like to see something done about the trailer parks that are in such bad shape and an eye sore and again mentioned the freezers and refrigerators which sit on porches and in yards.
Ms. Turnmire addressed the freezer and refrigerator situation by stating that it was possible that this issue could fall under a junkyard ordinance.
Mr. Jarvis stated in regard to the trailer parks that they may have passed code in the 70s but wouldnt now and that it would not be fair to "grandfather" one and not all.
Commissioner Robertson stated that no one has the right to tell anyone how to live or that they should change the way that they live; however, rental property is different. A rental property owner should be up-to-code and provide a proper dwelling for the renter.
Ms. Turnmire stated that the Planning & Inspections office has only received 4 complaints since 1997 and one was from DSS. Commissioner Bolick stated that something definitely needed to done if a child was involved.
Several members inquired about the procedure to be taken if an inspection was made, a violation was found, and the property owner took no action to correct it. Mr. Kerley stated that the Inspections Office usually granted 90 days for correction on an inspection violation. If no attempt is made during the 90 days, the Inspections Office tries to work with the property owner to correct the problem.
At this time, Chairman Watts stated that the Minimum Housing Codes definitely needed polishing. Ms. Turnmire asked for each Commissioners input.
Commissioner Odom stated that he would like the standards to be very simple and felt if you had holes in the floor and freezers in the yard, there was a problem, but any other minor issues should be left alone.
Commissioner Robertson stated that he felt that the standards for plumbing, heating, and wall structure was a little arbitrary. Commissioner Robertson agreed with Commissioner Odom regarding the freezers and unstable flooring, etc. and felt that if the house is stable and safe and the owners are happy with their standard of living, then let them be.
Commissioner Bolick again stated that he felt this should go through the Health Department and that all complaints and decisions should go through and all decisions made by a health review board.
Commissioner Harbinson stated that he felt that many people would file complaints to spite others and agreed with the idea that cases needed to be determined by a review board.
Chairman Watts stated that he felt the standards need to be broadened and stated that 5 complaints was not enough.
Carl Bunton, Planning & Zoning Commission, stated that it is currently Mr. Kerleys call as to whether he needed a health officer, fire officer, or someone from DSS to go with him to an inspection.
Mr. Kerley stated that he can and does take other inspectors with him when he goes to perform an inspection.
Commissioner Robertson suggested that DSS, the Fire Marshall, Health Department, and Inspections should meet when a complaint is filed and decide who is to be involved.
On August 1, 2000, the Commissioners reviewed a Zoning Ordinance text amendment concerning the height of retaining walls. The Commissioners expressed an interest in adopting a local ordinance requiring engineer specifications on retaining walls in excess of 4 feet in height.
Mr. Foster stated that he found it strange that you would have to get an engineers seal on a wall over 4 feet high but would not on an entire house.
Commissioner Robertson stated that a retaining wall over 4 feet high could collapse if not constructed properly and could therefore be a safety hazard. In this case, someone would need to inspect the retaining wall and make sure it was safe.
Mr. Foster stated that a fall zone should be established when building a retaining wall. If the wall falls on the owners property, then it is the owners own damaged property. If it falls on a neighbors property, its a different story.
Commissioner Bolick stated that the key to a stable retaining wall is it must have a solid foundation.
Mr. Foster suggested guidelines in writing for footing construction to a certain height, after the stated height, an engineers seal will be required.
Ms. Turnmire inquired about when the Board of Commissioners wanted this item to be brought back before them. It was decided that this item would be included on the January 2001 agenda.
Ms. Turnmire presented copies of the 1998-2004 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), 2000-2006 STIP, Draft 2002-2008 STIP, Draft 2002-2008 Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Supplement to the STIP. Ms. Turnmire stated that in Alexander County (Division 12) several road improvement projects were deleted between the 1998-2004 and 2002-2008 STIPs. The only project included in the Draft 2002-2008 STIP are bridge replacements. The Draft 2002-2008 MPO Supplement does still contain the improvements for NC Hwy 127 and Hwy 16 (unfunded and unscheduled projects). A public hearing is scheduled for sometime in November. Ms. Turnmire also provided a copy of the latest traffic count map available, dating 1999.
Chairman Watts stated that Hwy 127 and Hwy 16 definitely needed to be addressed. Commissioner Robertson instructed Mr. French to write a letter to the DOT requesting that Alexander County be brought up-to-date on the road improvement status and also explanation as to why the unfunded items (Hwy 16 and Hwy 127) were deleted from the list.
Chairman Watts stated that several improvements needed to be made including Hwy 127 beginning at Hwy 90 and ending at the Alexander County line and Rink Dam Road. Hwy 16 also needed to be constructed into a 3 lane highway.
NEW ZONING ORDINANCE
Ms. Turnmire stated that the Planning & Zoning Commission had completed review of the proposed Zoning Ordinance. The Planning & Zoning Commission is currently working on assigning proposed zoning districts. It was agreed that the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Commissioners would meet at a later date to discuss the proposed ordinance changes.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
John S. Watts, Chairman Jamie C. Millsaps, Clerk to the Board