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Tree,shrub, sidewalk sale notices draw fire

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By Sharon Graves

Ordinance enforcement once again has taken a hefty chunk of Carrollton City Council’s time as residents flocked to a meeting to voice concerns.

Letters informing residents and businesses they are in violation of various ordinances brought out many individuals to speak at the regular meeting of city council Monday, Aug. 24.

Sidewalk sales and trees and shrubs blocking access or views were the two main points of concern for those attending the meeting.

George Ingram, a resident of Winslow Street, voiced his frustration Monday night and again in an interview Tuesday morning.

When he received his letter, Ingram said he didn’t know if he was supposed to cut it down or dig it up, referring to the ornamental grass that he was  sited for.  “I didn’t measure, but I cut some out of the top of it. It didn’t interfere with nothing.”

“If they ain’t got an ordinance against it, they’ll make one,” Ingram added.

The News-Democrat requested information on violation notices issued by the city during the month of August. A document provided by the city shows that 17 violation warnings were issued between Aug. 11 and Aug. 21. The document states that nine were for overgrown trees and shrubs, five were for inoperable or unlicensed vehicles, two were for overgrown grass and two were for miscellaneous infractions.

The nuisance ordinance sited in one such letter addresses trees and shrubs obstructing passage on the sidewalk or obstructing motorist’s view. Each individual receiving  a letter was given five days to remedy the situation or face a $50 a day fine; however, no definitive plan of action is spelled out in the violation. The letters do not identify which trees or shrubs caused the problem or provide the directions to remedy the situation.  

According to city ordinance 92.03, trees must have 14 feet of vertical clearance over streets or eight feet vertical clearance over sidewalks, the warning of violation states. The restrictions on plants and shrubs says trees or shrubs can have a maximum height of three feet and they cannot be located within 20 feet of intersecting streets.

Resident Pat Perkins did not receive a letter, but was present to see how these decisions are made.  

“It doesn’t seem like common sense is prevailing,” Perkins told council. She was concerned for a neighbor who had a beautiful hedge they had trimmed three or four times a year and now the hedge has been cut down. She also told of another neighbor who had a tree trimmed so high up it could only be blocking a helicopter.

Ingram said that since the group just said the pledge of allegiance they must not be in Russia.  “You say cut a bush or be fined $50 a day.  I just wish you’d think a little.”

Council member Tammy McBurney said in an interview following the meeting that she believes if a bush or tree is in the right of way and blocking vision it should be cut back to the three foot limit but otherwise to let it go.

Council took no action concerning the trees and shrubs.

Sidewalk sales

The subject of sidewalk sales was addressed by several business owners who have been notified that they are prohibited.  The ordinance 91.31 and .32 spell out what can and cannot be placed on the sidewalks.

Sidewalk sales are only permitted when the merchandise placed in front of a business is sold only during a particular season, but does not include selling last season’s merchandise, according to code enforcement officer John Welch.  

Lita Harrell, owner of Purse Heaven, had a sidewalk sale and did not realize that she was in violation of an ordinance.

Madison, Ind. promotes sidewalk sales, she noted.  

“I do a lot of fundraising in front of my business allowing bake sales and a percentage of purse sales to go to different organizations.  According to this ordinance they can’t do this,” Harrell said.

Rae Stevens, owner of Burgin’s Floor Covering, agreed with Harrell on Madison having sidewalk sales and added that it helps to draw in business.  

“It’s hard enough to run a business down there, but if you’re not going to promote it or not allow them to promote themselves, you run business off,” Stevens said.

Another business owner, Maggie Briley, agreed with her fellow business owners.  “I still don’t understand why we can’t get something  done.” Madison is packed most weekends and they have sidewalk sales everywhere, she added.

Council member Nancy Jo Grobmyer said she agrees. “We should take a hard look at the sidewalk ordinance,” she said.

McBurney supported Grobmyer’s assertion, saying “with the economy the way it is, any time you can get someone in your business it’s good.”

Council member Dean Miller Jr., said “we’re starting to enforce ordinances that have been on the books for 20 or 30 years. If they haven’t been enforced for that long and they haven’t caused any problems, we need to make changes.”  With that comment, the crowd erupted in applause.  

Miller continued saying that council has a lot of ordinances on the books and they have put a lot of ordinances on the books that aren’t being enforced. He referenced an ordinance passed against jake brakes or engine braking in the city limits saying, “we’ve put signs up and we’ve not written one single ticket and that was done the first year I was on council.”

After a lengthy discussion, council decided to ask code enforcement to hold in abeyance any fines on the sidewalk sales until they can amend it to include sales for businesses that involves merchandise they regularly carry.

Fence ordinance  

The subject of a fence ordinance was also addressed during the July 27 meeting.

The city has not enacted an ordinance to require a permit to build a fence, but the idea of issuing an encroachment permit was floated Monday night.

The idea behind the encroachment permit would be to give permission to build a fence on the city’s right of way, unless it is a safety issue, Main Street director Sam Burgess said.

“Are we going to grandfather in all the things already in place unless it’s a genuine safety issue?” Welch asked council.

“What I’d really like to know is what is the city’s liability with these encroachment permits?” Miller said.

“I’d hate to go get an act of Congress to put up a fence,” resident George Ingram said.

The council directed city attorney Nick Marsh to research encroachment permits and bring some information back to council at the Sept. 14 meeting.  

In other business, council agreed to spend $1,000 as its part for an ad in Kentucky Economic Development Guide, a magazine that promotes cities and counties to industries looking to relocate.  Council agreed to authorize the expenditure only if requestor Joan Moore, director of the Carroll County Community Development Corp., could get the other $4,000 needed from other sources in the county.