Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Conditional use permits approved

April 20, 2006

After listening to concerns raised by the Baldwin City Planning Commission and making a tweak that was suggested, the Baldwin City Council adopted an ordinance amending zoning regulations to allow conditional use permits at its Monday meeting.

The ordinance has been discussed for almost a year and is mainly aimed at clearing up zoning problems in several mobile home parks in the city, none of which adhere to zoning regulations. The conditional use permits will allow those areas to be brought into regulation now, with other remedies down the road.

The planning commission expressed concerns that the permits would provide ways to circumvent zoning regulations if not handled properly. The council took that into consideration, but felt that the ordinance did what's needed and can be addressed later.

"There are some concerns that this particular ordinance allowed people to get around some regulations," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "I think there's some merit to that. I do think it's a good ordinance."

Dingman said the planning commission had a lengthy discussion on the issue at its last meeting, which also included a public hearing regarding the change.

"The planning commission did a thorough job reviewing this," said Council Member Tony Brown.

Dingman said the consensus was to go ahead with the ordinance as is, with one exception, and continue to work on it.

"It can be messaged and made better," said Dingman. "Their concern was this planning commission and this city council understands what we're trying to do, but what about future planning commissions and future city councils?"

The plan was adopted unanimously with an amendment that did away with a 10-year time limit on each conditional use permit. Instead, each permit will be considered separately.

"I think Jeff described it well that it is up to the governing body to enforce the regulations," said City Attorney Matt Hoy. "That's true for the conditional use permits. Ultimately, it is going to be up to city council review."

The council also approved unanimously an agreement with the Baldwin City Recreation Commission to manage the Baldwin Municipal Swimming Pool again this summer. The agreement is the same as last year. The pool opens May 27.

"Swimming pool season is upon us," said Dingman. "This agreement is essentially the same as last year's agreement."

Last year, the agreement was changed so city workers were in charge of pool maintenance and worked well. The city provides some funding for the pool and council members joked that it meant the city shares in profits from the pool. In reality, the pool is subsidized and doesn't make money.

"You don't make money on a pool," said Mayor Gary Walbridge. "It's a service to the community."

The council also discussed concerns raised by citizens regarding animals at large. Brown brought the matter up and wanted clarification that the police department does enforce city regulations.

"There are laws on the books and, just for clarification, that if people call regarding animals there will be action taken," said Brown.

"Yes, we respond," said Police Chief Mike McKenna. "We put down a sick raccoon just the other night. With domestic animals, such as dogs, we take them to Doctor (Tim) Jones (local veterinarian)."

Concerns were raised regarding the dog tag fees charged by the city and where that money goes now that there isn't a animal control officer. Not much is raised by the fees, the council was told, and most of that goes to boarding fees when dogs are caught and taken to the veterinarian.

"Last year, we took in $1,800 (from dog tags) and we spent about $1,600 on boarding fees," said Dingman.

"But, this money does go toward animal control," said Brown.

McKenna explained what his department does when calls are received about dogs at large. He said it depends on the situation, such as if it's a one-time occurrence when a dog gets out of a fence or if it's a repeat "offender." Another big factor is whether the dog is properly tagged or not. If tagged, there's a way to contact the owner. If not, it's taken to boarding. That doesn't last long, however.

"If no one knows who's dog it is, no one claims the dog, it is taken to the Humane Society (in Lawrence)," said McKenna.

Council members shared complaints that had been registered with them.

"I think most of the frustration is from the people who take care of their dogs and keep them in the fence," said Council President Amy Cleavinger.

Dog tags cost $5 with proof of rabies vaccination and that the animal has been spayed or neutered. Dog tag sales have steadily declined over the years and the price may have to increase.

"I think we need to inform the community of the importance to get their dog properly tagged," said Brown.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.