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ECC planners get back on track

'We need some laws in place that will make some difference,' Councilman Dave Maggio tells his colleagues.

Sun Advocate reporter

After a nearly 24 month hiatus which followed a mass exodus from its ranks, the newly formed East Carbon Planning and Zoning Committee is again functioning at full steam, taking on the backlog of property issues that has accumulated over time.

P&Z Chairperson Liz Ferguson addressed the city council Tuesday about several issues, including the pending East Carbon Cemetery as well as beautification and uncared-for properties within the area.

According to Ferguson, the group's latest meeting centered on approving land commonly referred to as the Butler Property for a zoning change. This would then make legal the proposed building of a cemetery at that location. The Butler Property is just west of State Road 123, to the south of Denver Avenue in East Carbon.

"We talked about a temporary zone change which would make the property central commercial which is more in line with a cemetery," explained Ferguson. "We also looked at the R1-10,000 zone which also permits public parks and recreation."

Ferguson reported that while both the R1-10,000 and central commercial zone changes would work for the area, the main reason for the temporary change in the area centers around the committee's want to establish a public facilities zoning district. This would encompass all of the area's public properties including state, federal and county lands.

The committee was concerned that if they zoned the area commercial on a permanent basis, land owners such as Watkins or Butler could change their minds about selling the property for city use and instead decide to develop their own commercial endeavor on the site.

"For that reason, we are asking for a temporary change only," said Ferguson.

The council not only approved the P&Z recommendation but showed great appreciation for the effort which has been done of late by the new committee.

"I think you showed great forethought concerning this issue," said council member Cheryl McFarland. "We are grateful for the hard work you and your committee have provided the city."

As the motion passed, city officials also commented on the P&Z committee's and specifically Ferguson's recommendation concerning dilapidated property within East Carbon.

"I know the rest of the council has not had a chance to go over the material Liz provided me but I would like you to as soon as possible because I feel this change in our ordinance would provide legions of good for us to be able to step in and clean up some of the properties around town," said council member and mayor pro-tem David Maggio. Mayor Orlando LaFontaine had been involved in a ATV accident and was excused from the meeting to seek medical attention.

"This ordinance she found has been adopted by Price city. It made more sense and had more teeth than any other law I had seen. I think we could take it, tweak it for our city and get it passed as an ordinance," Maggio continued.

Ferguson reported that she had received the information from Price City officials who also had problems with nuisance properties within their own city. Copies were not available at the meeting but Maggio and Ferguson did discuss portions of the ordinance which they felt would be particularly effective in dealing with East Carbon's current beautification problems.

The proposed change would allow members of the P&Z committee to review property and set judgment concerning cleanliness, possible vermin infestation, health hazards or even general unsightliness. According to Maggio, at that point the city could then enforce a repair judgment or clean up.

"We need laws in place that will make a difference, laws which basically say, you can't have properties that are in such disrepair that your neighbors either want to burn it down or move," quipped Maggio. "We need this ordinance to have teeth and a $50 fine won't do it but an escalating fine that eventually reaches $5,000 might get their attention."

Residents in attendance nodded and made comments about the approval concerning stricter enforcement of property expectations within the city. As most at the meeting were indeed long-time property owners, they expressed concern about run down areas effecting the value of their homes.

Maggio declared, "You get a person that puts $20-, $30-, $40- ,$50,000 into a home and they have a place right next door that isn't worth $400 or is stacked to the gills with garbage and mice. It's a nightmare and we need to get a tough law in place."

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