INDEPENDENCE — The Independence City Council discussed a the issue of vinyl fencing which was raised at the June 12 council meeting by a resident of the Independence Airpark subdivision.
Victoria Kruljac said at the June 12 council meeting she recently found out she cannot erect the vinyl fence she had planned to install because of a city code which prohibits it.
Zach Pelz, contract city planner, said he was “unable to find a lot of detail about the city’s discussion.”
It was adopted in 2012 after a public notice was published and a public hearing was held.
The city’s attorney said it would be unwise to withhold enforcement of the city’s fencing code, he said.
The city would be obligated to enforce the code if they received a complaint, Pelz said.
Currently the planning staff is 0.6 to 0.7 full-time employee equivalent, he said.
They are in the office about three days a week and have responsibilities other than code enforcement.
The other duties leave about 400 to 500 minutes each year to “take on code amendments,” he said.
Pelz distributed a list of requests for code amendments and long-range planning activities.
“We anticipate this will be an ongoing log of amendments to the development code that on an annual basis we can show you,” Pelz told the council. “You can select what are your highest priorities in a way that is meaningful.”
Councilor Marilyn Morton asked how many complaints about vinyl fencing the city has received.
There haven’t been any since Pelz started working for the city last May, he said.
“I personally, because there will be a new city manager next year, wouldn’t want to dilute a goal setting session with things like this,” Morton said. “I think this would deserve some separate review and not step on the goal setting.”
Mayor John McAardle said even if the city wanted to do anything, the process with the notifications, planning commissions, that’s a several-month process.”
Pelz said he thinks it is about a three-month process.
McArdle said he just wanted to clarify that the process would go into October.
“While I’m sensitive to folks who are trying to do the right thing, sometimes the process, well, sometimes the legally required process is a challenge,” McArdle said.
Pelz said a very good point came up through this.
“Essentially we’re penalizing people for coming to ask about what’s the correct way to proceed, and that’s true,” Pelz said. “Our answer to that question needs to be consistent with our adopted standards.”
City Manager David Clyne said there are risks, and the daily penalties for noncompliance can be as high as $500.
City Councilor Tom Takacs said code compliance is a struggle within the historic district.
“We need to think of ways we can promote better behavior,” he said. “People are just not paying attention and doing stuff all over town and not being penalized for it, hence some of the vinyl fencing we do have.”
Clyne said staff takes direction from the council on code issues, and council is in charge of helping staff set priorities.
“We’ve taken a complaint-driven approach so it is not heavy-handed,” Clyne said. “Either way if no one complains they score at least a temporary victory.”
McArdle said most people aren’t going to start new construction as the rains begin in October.
“We can begin that process then,” he said.
It doesn’t help the specific situation and he knows that doesn’t make everyone happy, he added.
McArdle asked the council if that seemed like a reasonable way to move things forward.
“If we’re going to do it, we want to do it right,” said Councilor Odilon Campos-Santos said. “Although it’s not ideal for some of our city residents here.”
McArdle said they would see something from city staff in October and move forward from there.
During councilor comments, Campos-Santos said he wanted to welcome the new families coming in to town for the summer.
“I just wanted to say, welcome to those families that are coming here from out of the state doing really hard work out in the fields,” Campos-Santos said. “I just want to say welcome to the city of Independence.”
McArdle offered kudos to the public works department.
“I was down at the Saturday market this last weekend and they and many people are very appreciative of the works you folks put in to take care of some the sidewalks,” McArdle said. “And thank you for getting that done before the Fourth of July.”
In other business, the council appointed Kate Schwarzler to the Planning Commission.