May 20, 2015 Edition

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WR aldermen address
tiny houses, annexation

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

During Monday's meeting, the Walnut Ridge City Council moved closer to passing an ordinance on house-size restrictions, approved the purchase of the former Gateway Animal Clinic and authorized legal action in the annexation of the 20 acres of Walnut Ridge property from the College City city limits.

Mini house ordinance
passes second reading

The council reviewed and passed on a second reading an ordinance proposing a minimum square foot requirement in the city limits. The ordinance, if passed, would set a minimum 600-square-foot requirement for building permits issued for residential homes.

The restriction would not apply to manufactured or mobile homes, but would prevent new living structures from being built on site or on a utility-trailer without a conditional use permit. This includes conversion of sheds and other detached structures.

Alderman Rob Combs said the ordinance should not be misinterpreted. "We are not banning tiny houses," he said. He said this would simply regulate house sizes for the general residential area in Walnut Ridge. but conditional use permits could still be applied for.

"I'm not against tiny houses," Alderman Jon Walter said. "I'm against having them in a residential area next to large or average-size houses."

Alderman Wendell Jones said it could certainly depreciate the value of some homes to have tiny houses constructed in their area.

Alderman Jeff Taylor said he still feels there are a lot of things to consider about this ordinance, such as secondary living structures such as the popular mother-in-law house and homes for those living on their own.

The ordinance proposed is based on a state fire code recommendation to have a minimum of 200 square feet per person. The 600-square-foot minimum was chosen as a suitable size to accommodate up to a family of three. "What if there is only one person?" Taylor asked.

Snapp agreed that not everyone requires the same size house, but when it comes to code enforcement for the city, there has to be some regulation.

Fire Chief Frank Owens said there is still a possibility for a tiny house park much like a trailer park. It would require conditional use permits and approval from code enforcement and the council but building tiny houses is certainly not off the table completely.

The second reading passed with Alderman Anthony Pickston absent and Taylor voting against it.

The third and final reading will be held in the June council meeting.

Former Gateway Animal
Clinic to be purchased

The council approved the city purchase of the former Gateway Animal Clinic, located at 4 Lawrence Road 4390.

The purchase price is $45,000 to be paid monthly with no interest over the next five years.

The building's initial use would be for an animal detention site but could potentially grow into a humane shelter or a county-wide animal control facility.

"If the city secures this building, the work is just getting started for animal control," Snapp said. He said that this acquisition would cause some financial burden for the city but fines for violators of the animal control ordinance would be heavily enforced. This would help offset the cost of the building and further the city's efforts to clean up the streets of stray and loose animals.

City to take legal
action in annexation

After College City’s City Council failed to give a second on a motion to voluntarily annex 20 acres of land owned by Walnut Ridge, Snapp and City Attorney Nancy Hall were authorized to pursue legal action if necessary to annex the property.

Alderman Allen Smith said he recommended the council vote this way as Walnut Ridge has opportunities to convert the acreage into a light industrial park. He said the city needs to move fast on this as there are already businesses interested in the location and delaying the annexation could deter those businesses.

Snapp said it would be advantageous to pass this without legal action. He hopes the College City City Council will call a special meeting to approve the annexation without having to take legal action.

Also at the meeting:

the council appropriated $9,853.87 to the Fire Department Maintenance and Repairs Fund to use in lighting upgrades provided by Moonshinexxx Lights. The city will receive assistance from Entergy Clear Results program, which offers incentives for energy efficient upgrades. The total invested in the upgrades is expected to be returned in utility savings in as little as three years.

Taylor gave an update on mosquito control, stating that some spraying, larvicide and traps have been administered. An aerial spraying is expected soon. Taylor also said that as part of a community pride ordinance passed earlier in the meeting, which clarifies responsibilities for property owners maintenance requirements of sidewalks, ditches and alleyways on or adjacent to their property, citizens should keep ditches and alleyways clear.

Owens reported on the equipment sale on May 9. Nearly $15,000 was raised and will either go toward maintenance and equipment for the city or go back into the departments the equipment sold came from.

Police Chief Chris Kirksey said the city would be offering an extended amnesty program for those with outstanding warrants. People who turn themselves in will be given a court date and immediately released with no additional fine. The program will continue through the end of May, after that time, the police department will start tracking down those with warrants.

Owens said the condemnation process on several properties is moving forward. He said it will be a couple of months before any real progress is done, but out of eight letters recently sent out, he has received word back on five.

Snapp said the city's efforts to pick up class IV waste was made much more cost effective thanks to the use of an old garbage truck owned by the city. Snapp said the city will look into the possibility of expanding the program due to the savings.

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