June 22, 2016 Edition

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WR Council takes action
on dilapidated buildings

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Three condemnation resolutions were on the agenda for Monday night's Walnut Ridge City Council meeting. Properties at 3566 Hwy. 67N, on the corner of Miller and Custom and at 121 Southeast Front were all brought before the council.

JR Rogers, former Walnut Ridge mayor and alderman, addressed the council in regards to his sisters' property located on Hwy. 67N, stating that he had received the notice but his sisters, who are the owners, had not. He said he had hoped to make the repairs without bothering them but a stop work order due to lack of a permit prevented him from proceeding.

Wanda Thornton and Louise Sifford, the owners, had a letter prepared stating they had not been aware of the possibility of condemnation until seeing recent news reports on the matter.

Rogers apologized for not being able to keep up with the buildings he had purchased and said it was not his intent to let them fall into disrepair. However, since he fell ill for a two-year period, he was having trouble keeping up.

"I try to be an asset to Walnut Ridge, but I can only do so much at one time and I'm trying," Rogers said.

Alderman Jeff Taylor said the reason this building was still in disrepair is because the city intervened and prevented Rogers from making repairs with the stop-work order. A repair permit, much like a building permit, requires a plan be presented and certain fees paid. Rogers said he didn't know that this was a requirement when he started the work.

Taylor added that refusing to allow someone to make repairs on their property was sending the wrong message to the citizens.

The motion was made to proceed with condemnation and passed on a 6-1 vote with Taylor casting the nay vote.

Due to Rogers taking the blame for mishandling the property, the council agreed that the real property owners should have time to address the situation. A resolution authorizing the mayor and city attorney to enter an agreement with the owners, which will include feasible financial and construction plans to repair the property, was brought before the council. This would provide up to 180 days to allow time for proper permits to be acquired and repairs made.

Taylor voted against it stating he didn't like that it would be out of the council's and planning commission's hands.

The Aerotech Machine Corp, or "Krepps Building," located at the corner of Miller and Custom in the airport industrial park, was also brought up for condemnation. Jack Krepps requested tabling the resolution for 60 days, stating he'd have the repairs done.

Alderman Wendell Jones took affront to this claim. "How many times have you told us that?"

Krepps claimed it had been brought into compliance before and simply fell back into disrepair. The property has been condemned twice before, once in 2005 and 2014.

City Attorney Nancy Hall presented a folder full of rejected letters that provided notice on the possible condemnation.

"I can't be more against delaying this again," Hall said.

The building was voted to be condemned though the council did also pass an additional resolution allowing an agreement to be entered into that shows a repair plan should the mayor and city attorney sign off on it. Jones cast a nay vote against the second resolution saying Krepps had been given enough chances over the past 10 to 15 years.

The final property, located at 121 Southeast Front, was brought before the council. Jim Jansen, who represented the Jansen Family Living Trust, said he had intentions to make the necessary repairs but was uncertain on regulations and codes required to restore the property.

Taylor said after reviewing three different cases, he was not sure the proper procedures were in place to handle condemnation notices and repair requirements. He said with the code enforcement rotation being as frequent as it is, it concerned him that some weren't getting proper notification on what needed to be done. Hall has explained that she believes the procedures to be solid and even read off one letter that listed specific repairs that need to be made.

Fire Chief Frank Owens said condemnations are to be handled in a case-by-case manner and that means each one would be a little different. Owens also offered to help Jansen review the codes and get him on the right track. He recommended bringing proper plans before the planning and zoning commission.

Hall said there is still some paperwork needed on file before she could proceed with a condemnation, so the council voted to table the Jansen property condemnation with Alderman Jon Walter opposed.

Also at the meeting:

a discussion on the use of invisible fences was held as there is no standard currently set by the city in the current dog ordinance. The Barnes residence has an invisible fence installed for their two security dogs. Concerns about the fence, especially those entering the property unaware of the parameter of the fence were brought before the city. The Barneses have since posted proper signage and shown the security measures they have taken, including replacing batteries regularly and keeping generators in place to provide proper power supply to the fence.

Hall said she needed to know how the council wanted to address other instances of invisible fences, be that through allowing variances on a case-by-case basis or amending the dog ordinance to set standards for invisible fences. Mayor Charles Snapp formed a committee consisting of Chris Barnes, Wendell Jones and Jeff Taylor to look into the matter.

Aldermen voted to rezone property at 3610 Hwy 67N from A-1 agriculture to C-3 commercial and six lots on Midway from A-1 agriculture to R-1 residential.

the council approved the placement of a lien on property at 904 Southeast Second in the amount of $4,750, representing the cost of razing and removal.

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