February 13, 2006

 

 

 

The Ellettsville, Indiana, Town Council met in regular session on Monday, February 13,  2006, at the Fire Department Training and Conference Room.  Patrick Stoffers called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. Lisa Creech led in prayer and William Evans led the Pledge of Allegiance.

 

Roll Call:  Members present were Patrick Stoffers, President; William Evans, Vice President; Lisa Creech, Phillip Rogers and Dennis Williamson.  Sandra Hash, Clerk-Treasurer was also present. 

 

Supervisors Present:   Jim Ragle, Jim Davis, Ron McGlocklin, Mike Farmer, Jeff Farmer and Frank Nierzwicki were present. 

 

Approval of the minutes

 

Lisa Creech made a motion to approve the minutes for the regular meeting on January 23, 2006.  William Evans seconded.  Motion carried.

 

Action to Pay Accounts Payable Vouchers

 

Lisa Creech made a motion to pay the Accounts Payable Vouchers.  William Evans seconded.  Motion carried.

 

Ordinances on First Reading

 

Ordinance 06-01 to amend Sections 36.121, 36.204 and 36.228 of the Ellettsville Town Code Concerning Paid Time Off (P.T.O) hours

 

Jim Davis, Ellettsville Fire Chief explained irregularities in the P.T.O “carry over” section were submitted to Mike Spencer.  These changes were made after some other corrections were approved.  Mike Spencer reviewed all sections on P.T.O to make sure they were uniform. 

 

Ordinance 06-03 to Terminate Dormant Funds

 

Sandra Hash explained there are four funds no longer needed; they have not been used in over a year and have zero balances. This ordinance would remove these funds from the bookkeeping records.  The funds are:

  • IDEM – Grant Creek Study
  • Skate Park Insurance
  • Always Remember 9-11
  • Drainage Repair

 

Ordinance 06-04 to create a Fund for Developer’s Escrow

 

Sandra Hash informed the Council there are descriptions in the Town Code of different types of securities developers can use to insure developments are completed in a timely matter.  One is a cash bond to be held in an escrow account.  This ordinance would establish a Developer’s Escrow Fund.  Instead of setting up a fund each time a cash bond is presented, one fund would be created in the records called Developer’s Escrow.  Each cash bond would require a separate savings account and the interest earned would remain in that account.  William Evans asked if Mike Spencer should be contacted to see which of the 5 escrow accounts they will use.  Sandra said she listed all five of the security instruments but only option (2) A cash bond held in an escrow account would be held in the Developer’s Escrow Fund.

 

Ordinances on Second Reading

 

Ordinance 06-02 to amend the Zone Maps at 242 West Main Street from R-1 to C-3

 

Frank Nierzwicki stated this is a request for a rezone.  The Plan Commission has approved the request. The address was amended to 242 West Main Street.  Dennis asked who owns the property.  Frank replied Sheila Zerface and Jim Groh. 

 

Lisa Creech made a motion to adopt Ordinance 06-02 to amend the Zone Maps as amended at 242 West Main Street from R-1 to C-3.  William Evans seconded.  Motion carried.

 

New Business

 

Sims outline Plan Approval at the 5000 block of N. Capitol Avenue

 

Frank Nierzwicki informed the Council this was tabled at the Plan Commission meeting and needs to be tabled this evening.

 

Lisa Creech made a motion to table the Sims outline Plan Approval at the 5000 block of N. Capitol Avenue.  William Evans seconded.  Motion carried.

 

Supervisors’ comments

 

Frank Nierzwicki went over the three topics discussed at the Plan Commission meeting.  One was well covered and the other two need some background work. 

 

  • The Sims’ 3.77 acre development on Capitol Avenue off of State Road 46 is for a forty 2-bedroom apartment complex.  There were comments and concerns from neighbors regarding density, buffering, street widths and sidewalks.  The Plan Commission tabled this for a month.  He was asked to set up a meeting with the neighbors, developer, staff and a few Plan Commission members.  This meeting will be held before March 2. 
  • Bob Double gave a visual presentation explaining the Town Ordinance on signs and lighted signs. Richland Plaza wants to update their facades and would like to be in compliance with our codes.  Richland Plaza was not in the Town during the last revision.  Mr. Double suggested the size of the sign was not proportional to large store fronts.  He made a recommendation to extend the size per linear foot based on the visual presentation.  The large type signs in front of Richland Plaza would become very small if they were compliant to Town Code.  In the present code, there is no allowance for lighted signs.  He does not think this was the intent at the time.  Mr. Double asked about 3-D lettered signs, for example CVS store, raised letters with lighting underneath creating minimal light pollution.  Frank feels this type of sign would be acceptable and wants to work with the business community to make the businesses in our area viable and competitive in the region. 
  • The Parking Ordinance was also on the agenda and received the most media coverage.  A proposal was presented to the Plan Commission.  Part of the proposal mentioned writing parking tickets for parking on the lawn.  This issue was around before Frank started working for the Town in January 2005.  He went on to give a summary on this issue. 
    • During the November 3, 2005 Plan Commission meeting he mentioned 177 letters were sent out for parking on the grass between July 1 and October 31.  He was looking for a proactive approach to this issue in all the neighborhoods. 
    • January 12, 2006 he looked at methods for reducing the number of letters sent out.  One suggestion was writing tickets on violations.  Possible enforcement could be between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday as a guideline.  The Plan Commission instructed him to research other city and town ordinances in Indiana on this issue then submit a proposal in February.  He went on to explain how things were handled before he was brought in.  The start of this ordinance regarding parking on the lawn and loading permits went back to April 1, 2004.  Jeff York (who held this position before Frank) was getting guidelines from the Plan Commission. A special meeting was held April 7, 2004 discussing sending letters to offenders.  Frank quoted Sandra Hash at that meeting “Too many letters and too many changes for people to comply with on these letters.  It draws out the process too long.  The letter writing process is also very time consuming.”  At that meeting the Plan Commission voted to accept the ordinance 5-1. 
    • April 26, 2004 the Council passed this ordinance.  Some comments made were “this ordinance will prevent parking on the lawn”. 

 

Frank has been in contact with the Plan Commission President who stated he will call a special meeting of the Plan Commission to discuss this issue possibly next week (time and date to be determined).

 

Frank announced he needs some clear guidance on the matter from the Plan Commission.  Some Comments made Thursday night (February 9, 2006) were “a little bit of overkill and common sense needs to be used on the enforcement issues makes him think the Plan Commission wants to go back to a “complaint driven process”.   A possible proposal for the Plan Commission is the parking on the grass and the tall grass violations should be handled by the Clerk-Treasurer’s office.  The Clerk-Treasurer’s office has used the “complaint driven” enforcement in the past and has been staffed for this function.  He is getting feedback from different people on a daily basis regarding this issue and expects to get more comments.  This is fine and this is why we need an open process with citizen participation.  Patrick clarified a special meeting of the Plan Commission will be next week.  Frank said all the members will be contacted and it will be open to the public. 

 

Sandra Hash was a little upset and commented on Frank’s remark.  She does not feel the enforcement should to go back to Clerk’s office when it is not a financial matter.  She feels this is punishment for the position she took at the Plan Commission meeting.  It is very unfortunate this was not discussed with her before it was brought up at this meeting.  It is becoming a common practice for things to be discussed at Westside.  Patrick said Sandra was way out of line.  Lisa Creech said “she is not and she has a valid comment because I’m kept out of things too”.  Sandra went on to explain she received a call at her home on Sunday informing her there were three members of the Town Council at Westside.  The caller was concerned the parking issue was being decided since it was discussed openly and they questioned if the Plan Commission would have any more input.  She was just repeating what she was told.  She was not there to witness this.  Patrick informed Sandra “this is patently untrue and did not happen”.  Sandra apologized and reiterated she did receive a call at home from a concerned citizen.  Patrick felt she should have called and asked him.  She did not know she was going to be confronted this evening with this information and once again apologized.  It took her by surprise to be quoted twice during Frank’s comments.  She spoke up at the Plan Commission meeting stating maybe we were looking a little hard for parking on the lawn violations and sympathized with some members of the audience who received violation letters.  Frank suggesting the responsibilities of parking, trash and weed letters returning to the Clerk’s office was in response to her remarks.  When the Planning position was created, handling of the trash and weed letters was taken away from the Clerk and given to the Planner.  The Town Code was changed to remove the Health and Safety Officer from a Town Council member on to the Planning and Zoning administrator.

 
Lisa Creech commented on Mr. Double’s recommendation in the newspaper on the signs.  She thinks they are very reasonable, a good suggestion and very progressive.  She questioned how the parking ordinance and tall grass would be handled.  Frank mentioned he just wanted to give a background on what was going on and the number of letters written.  He was looking for guidance from the Plan Commission and thought he had a proactive process on ticketing without sending letters.  He does not have a selective enforcement policy (going after only a few neighborhoods) he wants to be fair and open.  Comments he received at the Thursday Plan Commission meeting were maybe going back to complaint issue type of procedure.  It was also commented there are more important things that need to be done in Town instead of the parking issue.  He does not have a huge staff.  It is only he and Laura (two days a week).  Sandra added she does not have a huge staff either and she appreciated the letter writing being removed from her responsibilities.  Lisa is not against the “complaint driven” procedure because it brings the neighbor back into the issue and collective effort.  Frank does not know what is right or wrong; what is better or worse on this process.  On “complaint driven” enforcement, you are reacting to one or two neighbors that are very active.  He would like to get away from this because the staff would be more impartial.  He will do what the Plan Commission requests on this but he does have a lot of items on his plate that he has been requested to do.  He did hear from the citizens and clarified this has been an on going process. 

 

Sandra added that in her years working in the Clerk’s office, they have been through the complaint and cleaning up process.  It was getting more effective when we started cleaning 

up the property and filing liens.  The Clerk’s office tried patrolling tall grass and weeds once and had the same response they just had at the last Plan Commission meeting.  Some of the people notified might have been on vacation or just in a unique situation.  When neighbors report things, they have been dealing with it for a while, have seen the pattern in the neighborhood and they know if there is truly a problem.  She did not say we should stop sending letters nor did we discuss ticketing; she felt there were a few situations in the audience that maybe should have had a second consideration.  It is a hard call, if you are not in the neighborhood everyday, to go out one day, see a violation and act on it.  There is a wide range of circumstances and we need to find the middle ground.  Lisa commented there can be numerous complaints on a property and when a Town official arrives, it is already cleaned up and the property can not be cited.  Frank remarked the way the system is set up, there are two time periods and a large percentage of the people are complying in that period.  Then a month later there would be people back on the grass again.  This is what he is trying to address.  What he has seen in the last year are houses with only one garage, which was fine during the 60’s but now people have three or four cars.  He did receive a call stating he is doing a good job on the enforcement issues.  Lisa commented when people purchase homes they feel “it is my property I can do what I want with it”.  Then other homeowners feel that by the State of Indiana laws it is the Town Council’s responsibility to protect their property rights and value.  She gave another analogy to this situation using driver license privileges, everyone has the right to have a drivers license, but the do not have the right to drive drunk or without insurance.  These laws have been on the books since 1964 and the Town has not enforced them.  Now the Town has grown without accommodations and they have to deal with the fact of neglecting a lot of these issues and people are suffering as a result.  She spoke with Jeff York in the past about this and even talked about trying to get grant money for people on fixed incomes to fix their driveways.  Mr. Sissman informed Lisa the driveway is there but there is grass growing through.  He feels the Council should be after the junk and wrecked cars.  He suggested the cars that are plated, licensed, run-able and insured should be left alone and they should focus on the cars with missing parts and engines.  Patrick asked Frank to find out what his next step will be.  He then said Frank asked tonight how we want to handle this, what direction we want to go in.  Patrick asked him to also think about what other provisions of the Town Code we will start enforcing, complaint base. 

 

Sandra wants to know the reason for transferring the complaints back to the Clerk’s office.  Frank said originally it was a complaint based system in her office.  Sandra replied yes until we got a Planner.  Frank then reiterated Sandra has more staff than he has right now.  Sandra strongly disagrees this is a Clerk-Treasurer’s responsibility.  Frank went on to say we will have other comments and opportunities to talk about his. 

 

Russ Ryle, Reeves Road resident, understood February 23 is when the fence is to be erected at Edgewood Village.  He verified the fencing is 1,320 feet and feels that might be a little short because there are twenty-two 70-foot lots.  He would like a copy of the fence proposal.  Frank mentioned there is a property where the fence will be going up fairly soon and another property along Reeves that does not want a fence.  Russ spoke briefly on the Edgewood Village issues.  At the December council meeting they were told the current developer Mr. Dunn and the Area 10 on Aging were in negotiation for a management agreement that would effectively restore the age 50 and over requirement.    By the next council meeting he would like a formal report from Frank to the Council where we are with the age 50 issue. 

 

Dennis Williamson mentioned there will be a couple of meetings Thursday that will impact what we will be doing this year in the Town of Ellettsville.  Main Street is having their meeting from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to discuss the activities for this year as far as the Downtown Beautification and Redevelopment efforts.  Then at 7 p.m. there will be a Fall Festival meeting at Eagle’s Landing to plan the Fall Festival. 

 

Lisa Creech respectively requested to resign from the Plan Commission and Dennis Williamson has graciously accepted to take her place. 

 

Lisa Creech would like to make a motion to accept Dennis Williamson as our new Town Council member on the Plan Commission.  William Evans seconded.  Motion carried.

 

Privilege of the Floor – non Agenda Items

 

Ed Bitner of the Ellettsville Plan Commission clarified a few things.  He applauded Frank’s efforts.  He knew Frank would be in for a big fight when all this started.  The discussion at the Plan Commission meeting they had on Thursday went very well.  He agreed with Frank about receiving several phone calls.  He feels this is because his name was mentioned in the paper.  He read his quote in the newspaper and then clarified what he said.  He did say to ticket people with ruts in their yard, leaving the car in the rut was proof that the car is driving in the yard.  The newspaper said he did not vote on that and now you are saying you want people ticketed. He said he did not say that.  He is all for the cars with no engines, sitting in the yard or physically driven in ruts to be ticketed.   He then read the end paragraph of the article “Nierzwicki would like to have the Plan Commission vote on his idea in March and then forward it to the Town Council but at the end of Thursday’s meeting there was no sign the Plan Commission was ready to support him”.  Ed said this was correct; no one was ready to support him on this new proposal and they would like for Frank to go out and get some other avenues.  The media really “gets” Ed because they make it look like you said something that you really didn’t say.  He then read another article from the Sunday’s paper (February 12, 2006) regarding Dale Sissman parking on gravel covered grass.  Ed agreed with most of the article except the ending of the paragraph.  He wanted the people to know it was not in the Plan Commission meeting to ticket everyone.  He also said Frank has done a good job trying to research everything and hopes with some fine tuning they will come up with a solution that will be well and amicable to everyone involved.  He remarked the newspaper does not tell everything that was said and it makes the Plan Commission members and Frank look bad. 

 

Sandra Hash defended her comment on “overkill”.  Mr. Sissman said he had a foot of grass covered gravel in his yard that he has been parking on for 35 years.  This is located off an alley behind his house.  It seems they had to look pretty hard to find this violation. 

 

Adjournment

 

Patrick Stoffers adjourned the meeting at 8:19 p.m.