Concerns on zoning, attorney position to be discussed at council meeting

By Kay Johnson

  Zoning regulations are on tap to be addressed at Thursday’s regular town council meeting — along with the town attorney position and adopting a truck route ordinance. These topics have highlighted recent meetings as well.

Zoning commission meeting held June 6
Mayor Ron Kiosse relayed to commissioners and members of the public attending the June 6 Zoning Commission meeting that after conferring with three attorneys, he found the current town ordinance prohibiting more than 20 animals in one location is in fact enforceable. 
This debate had risen in recent meetings, as the Zoning Commission has addressed whether or not to allow hobby farms within Terry’s town limits. Town attorney Becky Convery had given counsel that the current ordinance was not enforceable, according to previous Terry Town Council discussions, while county attorney Garry Bunke had counseled the town, saying that the current ordinance was enforceable.
According to Kiosse, those in violation of the current ordinance already on the books would typically be given a warning. A fine would then be administered  for those not complying after the initial warning. Further action that could be taken on those who continue to violate the “no more than 20 animals at one location ordinance” was not discussed. 
Currently no resident is in violation of the ordinance, but discussion arose regarding a rabbit farm that may be moving to town.
Zoning commissioners also reviewed letters received from Terry property owners Joe Johnson and Manard and Myra Criswell, requesting a continuation on the zoning issue.
“Initially we thought our concerns that  were brought up at previous meetings regarding our property and zoning decisions could be worked out, but it doesn’t appear to be moving in that direction,” the June 5 letter states. “Under legal counsel, we have been advised to request this continuation so that more research can be done on this matter.”
The Zoning Commission didn’t address whether the continuation would be granted or not.
  Both Criswell and Johnson have businesses currently zoned within the proposed residential districts and have requested the commission zone their property commercial. 
In an earlier letter to the commission, Johnson requested a portion of his property be zoned agriculture, as he has been allowing Art and Kathy Henry to graze their bum lambs there, but said if the commission would not allow the agriculture zoning he would like all of his property located in the southwest portion of Terry to be zoned commercial. 
“As this property has historically been used as commercial property for 50-plus years, deemed by the utility company and for taxation purposes under county, state and federal guidelines as commercial property, it only seems rational and fair to designate this property in a commercial zone,” Johnson’s May 17 letter states.  
“Businesses should be left downtown,” said zoning commissioner Heather Carter initially after reading the letters. “We don’t want that commercial only,” Carter added, referring to Criswell’s and Johnson’s property.
The commission discussed adopting a new zone, either called “residential commercial” or “neighborhood commercial”. 
“If these people were to sell these lots it would only stay purely commercial and if they were to sell to somebody down the street who wanted to build an apartment, it’s not allowed, in just commercial,” Carter said in response to an audience member’s question on the need to adopt a new zone.
“We’re trying to make people happy,” Netzer added.
Noting two houses neighbor lots owned by Johnson, commissioner Elden Netzer said, “We’re trying to balance it out.” 
It wasn’t made clear why the two residences Netzer pointed to couldn’t be zoned residential and Johnson’s property zoned commercial.
Under the proposed “neighborhood commercial zone” a list of businesses would be allowed. These include: Accessory apartments, daycare, mobile home parks, single and multi family units, apartment complexes, churches, bed and breakfast businesses, water well drilling businesses and rv parks.
Audience member Jerry Koppenhaver suggested a service business designation be added to the list of businesses in the proposed neighborhood residential zone, noting excavation and ditching work.
“Mind you, commercial is for commercial businesses. And we don’t want this in the residential section. We want commercial to stay in the business section. We are taking basically everything from the commercial,” Carter said referring to the new zone.
Netzer pointed out that Johnson does own other property outside of Terry that he could build on. “And the thing is, he does own 6 acres outside of town.”
May 16 town council meeting
The May 16 meeting began with concerns regarding having a town attorney who has attended most meetings telephonically in the past year.
“We don’t understand you. We can’t hear you,” said audience member Gordan Gomez to town attorney Becky Convery, whose comments were broadcast through a speakerphone.
“I told you at the beginning it’s not fair for her to be on the phone,” Gomez said. “We can’t understand her.”
Noting that having a town attorney present telephonically is legal, the council listened as audience members and Convery addressed the issue.
“Every opportunity I have had to be there, I’ve been there,” Convery said. 
Convery is attending school in Florida.
“I don’t disagree with you. I think your points are valid” Convery said in response to the concerns. 
Sherry Strasheim noted it might be helpful if there wasn’t as much background noise on the other end of the phone.
“Where you’re at there’s alot of background noise and it’s hard to hear you,” Kiosse clarified to Convery.
“I think it’s an issue that we all need to discuss,” said council person Teneil Phipps, suggesting it may need to be done in a closed session.
Kiosse noted that Convery is expected to attend the June meeting.
Other business included finding a new location for the tire disposals of Get R Done due to concerns that were previously brought up to the council. 
The council approved the town obtaining a bank loan of up to $40,000 to pay for town equipment and equipment repairs. Among the new equipment would include a street sweeper, because the current sweeper is no longer operational.
When asked if the town planned on putting the zoning issue on the ballot council members said that they had been advised not to take on that kind of action.
“We asked the state,” said Kiosse. “They said they have never heard of such a thing.”
“We’ve been advised not to take it to a vote, because it sets a precedent,” said council person Rolane Christofferson. Noting then when questions were raised about daily matters, like hiring someone or even the bank loan the council just approved, the town council would need to put everything up to a vote. 
“We can’t. We can’t do it. We’ve been advised not to by the state,” Christofferson said, noting the expenses involved.
The council was asked whether zoning was a bigger issue than some of the other daily decisions made.
“It just opens up too many things,” said Christofferson. “But you guys are more than welcome to do your petition. If you can get the people then it will go to a  vote.”
Thursday’s council agenda is available at the Town of Terry website.

Published June 12, 2013

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