Town To Continue
Using '97 Standard
BY AMY ROSE
Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 citizens, the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to rescind its previous action to adopt the amended 2006 International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), which most of those in attendance appeared to oppose.
The board had adopted the IPMC on first reading at its Sept. 20th meeting, by a 3-to-1 vote. The code was to have been considered on second and final reading at the meeting Tuesday afternoon.
The meeting included an intense exchange involving Mayor W.T. Daniels and Alderman Keith Paxton related to the code issue, as well as some intense moments in which Alderman Paxton took strong issue with an official letter he was sent recently from Building Official Jim Snyder.
The letter stated that Paxton had violated the town's regulations related to signs and building occupancy when he held a town hall-type public meeting in one of his own buildings on Sept. 29.
More details concerning the letter will appear in a future issue of The Greeneville Sun.
The meeting mentioned in Snyder's letter was the second of two open meetings Paxton hosted last week to allow citizens to ask questions and voice their opinions about the IPMC, which would have regulated how property-owners maintain their homes and other structures in the Town of Greeneville.
At both of Paxton's meetings, audience members were also encouraged to attend the board meeting on Tuesday to express opposition to the IPMC, and many of them did.
Three Greeneville residents had formally arranged in advance to speak at the board meeting.
All three -- Donald Burchnell, Lisa Cox and Janet Malone -- addressed the code issue in some way, although only Burchnell expressed complete opposition to the IPMC. (Please see related article on Page A-12.)
WEBSTER MAKES MOTION
Following their remarks, Mayor Daniels called on Alderman Sarah Webster, who served as chairman of the Property Maintenance Committee he appointed in July to review the proposed code and make a recommendation to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Mayor Daniels named the committee after a number of citizens expressed strong opposition to the International Property Maintenance Code when the issue came up in July.
The board initially planned to adopt it at that time, and incorporate it into the Municipal Code of Greeneville to replace the 1997 Standard Housing Code, which has been in place for the last several years.
At the meeting Tuesday, Webster made a motion to rescind the board's action on Sept. 20 to approve an ordinance on first reading to amend Title 4 of the town's Municipal Code.
Alderman Webster's motion was seconded by Alderman Darrell Bryan and adopted unanimously.
The ordinance that was rescinded Tuesday would have adopted an amended version of the 2006 IPMC, as recommended by the Property Maintenance Committee on a 4-1 vote.
On Sept. 20, the board's vote to adopt the IPMC had been 3-1, with Alderman Paxton voting against the ordinance and stating that the committee did not make enough changes to the IPMC before bringing it back to the board for action.
'MUCH CONFUSION' CITED
Since Sept. 20, Webster said, "There has been much confusion -- a lot of misinformation. Some has been corrected. Some has not. It's going to take a good while to get this corrected."
Mayor Daniels agreed with Webster's motion to rescind, commenting, "I don't think we can move forward with this kind of atmosphere."
Asked after the meeting to explain the misinformation on the issue, Webster said it is not sensible to believe that the government is taking over personal property by adopting the IPMC.
She said it also is not sensible to think that properties will be inspected every time ownership changes.
Mayor Daniels referred to facts presented in two separate letters distributed at Paxton's meetings.
One letter said the fee for violations is $65 a day, which Daniels corrected to $50 a day. The same letter said Daniels voted for the IPMC, but he clarified that he does not vote unless there is a tie among the aldermen.
The other letter, written by Greene County resident Beverly Barwick, told of property-related experience in Asheville, N.C., before moving here.
This letter was read by Barwick's husband, Frank, at Paxton's second open meeting.
The letter states, "By the time the city code inspectors were through with me, I had paid for $10,000 worth of repairs, just to be able to sell the house 'as is'!"
Daniels said he had contacted the building department in Asheville and was told that they do not inspect homes because they are being sold.
He said such an inspection normally would be conducted by the financial institution providing the loan for the sale.
Beverly Barwick said this morning in an interview that she believes the inspectors who required changes to her home in 2004 were with the City of Asheville.
Responding to Daniels' statement that the Asheville building department told him they do not conduct such investigations, Barwick said, "I can't imagine how they could even say that unless they changed their routine."
She said, "I'm positive that the rules were connected to the city, somehow."
She added that she is "so happy" that the board voted to rescind its Sept. 20 action.
The mayor added in the meeting that he did not want anyone to think that the town was going to "cram something down somebody's throat" by adopting the IPMC.
This remark was met with chuckles from the audience.
Daniels then read a statement challenging Paxton's meetings on the issue.
The statement began with a summary of board-related events during the summer leading up to the vote on Sept. 20.
* On June 21, the board voted 3-1 on first reading to approve the unamended version of the 2006 IPMC.
* On July 5, the board tabled the issue with the understanding that a committee would be appointed to review the code and report back within three months.
* On July 19, the Property Maintenance Committee was appointed with no opposition.
* The committee met on Aug. 3, Aug. 17, Aug. 30, Sept. 7 and Sept. 14.
* At the Sept. 14 meeting, the committee voted 4-1 in favor of a proposed revised version of the code.
"All five meetings were well received by the citizens of Greeneville, and I want to thank each member of the committee for serving," Mayor Daniels said in his statement.
"I would also like to thank all of the citizens and taxpayers of Greeneville who took time from their busy schedules to attend these important community, open-to-the-public, meetings," Daniels said.
"Mr. Paxton chose to have his own public meetings. These meetings were not sanctioned by the city of Greeneville in any way, shape, or form," the mayor stated.
"From the media, I have learned that Alderman Paxton prefers to attend only meetings that he has charge of and has complete control of. Alderman Paxton is not fair to the citizens of the Town of Greeneville."
PAXTON CHALLENGES STATEMENT
"That's an untrue statement," Paxton responded, recalling that he attended all the meetings of the Greeneville Budget and Finance Committee, of which he is not a member, as well as several other town committee meetings that he does not control.
Daniels interrupted Paxton and said the board was not talking about the Budget and Finance Committee.
Paxton then said in a heated tone, "I'm telling you what I'm saying, instead of you telling me what I think."
He said the other aldermen do not attend meetings of the committees on which he serves, including the Kinser Park Commission, Greeneville Parking Authority, and Greeneville Regional Planning Commission.
Alderman Webster told Paxton the aldermen are assigned to specific committees to serve as a liaison between those committees and the board.
Their duties are to report any issues related to those committees back to the board, she said.
If an alderman is not appointed to a committee, it is not the duty of that alderman to attend meetings of that committee, she said.
Daniels said he believes it is the responsibility of all elected officials to attend the committee meetings.
CONTINUE WITH 1997 CODE
As a result of Tuesday's vote to rescind, the town will continue to operate under the 1997 Standard Housing Code.
This code, like the amended IPMC, includes a five-member board to hear property-owners' appeals of maintenance-code-related enforcement actions by the Town Building Official.
The original IPMC-related proposal in July was expected to result in appeals being heard by the same town building official that would be identifying the violations, as had actually been done for some time since a local appeals board for maintenance-related matters became inactive.
Both the board and the town building official indicated in July, however, that they felt that the method of having the building official be both "prosecutor" and "appeals judge" was inappropriate and needed to be changed.
Following Tuesday's unanimous vote to rescind, Alderman Paxton made a motion to create another committee to look at creating a new code customized for Greeneville.
His motion died for lack of a second.
Asked about the next step in the process, Webster said she thinks the Property Maintenance Committee should meet again.
She said she did not have a time frame for when the committee should meet, because some time is needed "for the anger to settle down."
WHY ADOPT IPMC?
Following the meeting, Webster said one of the main reasons the town is considering the IPMC is so Greeneville will have the same set of property maintenance regulations as other communities across the nation.
Having the same codes as other communities will simplify the process for those moving to Greeneville and the out-of-town contractors, architects and other professionals they work with, she explained.
Daniels said he thinks the board's decision to rescind was in the best interest of everyone.
"I think we did the right thing," he said. "I think we did everything we could do to get it to the people. Obviously we didn't do enough."
He said the town will be okay with the existing codes it has in place until something new can be adopted.
Daniels added that he thinks the board's disagreement over the issue is "unhealthy."
"Everybody needs to be on the same page," he said.
In other business, the board voted to seek grant funds for the planned Hardin Park Walking Trail.
Details of the trail will appear in a future edition.