More streamlined ways to take care of nuisances such as too-tall grass, abandoned vehicles, and signs for businesses no longer located at a particular spot were among the proposed code changes members of Salem City Council heard Feb. 22.
Zoning Administrator Mary Ellen Wines briefed the five Council members at a work session before the regular meeting in the Salem Civic Center Community Room.
She said changes were necessary, in part, because building regulations had not been updated since 1999.
Some of the proposed changes would clarify what kind of maintenance of historic structures and those in a historic district. Wines pointed out that the changes would not dictate what historic structures should look like, just that they have to be protected and maintained.
Historic structures any listed on local, state or federal lists.
Checking on those buildings and other aspects of the changes would be overseen by the city’s Building Inspections Division until a code compliance position is made available, Wines said.
The changes would also encompass clarifying code sections on signs to add maintenance of existing signs. For instance, if a sign no longer advertises an existing business, the sign should be professionally covered or the face painted blank, Wines said.
One example of that is the sign outside the former Zaxby’s on West Main Street.
The Nuisance section replaces one titled Vegetation, and covers , tires off their rims, and too-tall grass and weeds over 10 inches tall (except hay fields, shrubbery, trees and gardens).
Parking construction standards are also considered in the proposed code changes. If enacted, businesses would be required to have fewer parking spaces, such as Lowe’s home improvement store that now has 591 spaces. The new amendment would require only 270 spaces.
Councilmember Randy Foley asked when the city starts enforcing if there would be a big budget increase for the building inspection office. Wines said the intent is to start with one employee, but five are needed for the maintenance section.
“The goal is to get one person to focus on code enforcement, just to go to court, to issue citations,” Wines answered.
Community Development Director Chuck vanAllman explained that the department plans to shift resources, and is looking at civil penalties for violations instead of criminal ones.
As far as when the changes to the code would go into effect, Assistant City Manager Rob Light said if Council is ready to move forward, the matter would be put on a future agenda.
At the regular Council meeting that followed the work session, Council:
- Approved appropriating $377,900 from the electric fund and $429,000 from the sewer fund, transferring them into the AMI account. AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure;
- Approved appropriating funds from online auctions that sold a city Ford truck for $7,125. It will be used to purchase new street maintenance equipment;
- Concurred with actions by the Salem School Board to use CARES grants of $1.6 million that will be used for staff to run summer school programs, Finance Director Rosie Jordan said.
At the start of the meeting, Mayor Renee Turk recognized Boy Scout Troop 39 Scout Thomas Martin, who was attending as part of fulfilling requirements for his communication badge.