Board of Commissioners – Code Enforcement Discussion – January 2019

January 14, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

Code enforcement issues took up a large portion of the January 7, 2019, meeting of the Ramseur Board of Commissioners. In the video below, the speaker addressing the board is Jill Wood, a consultant hired by the Town of Ramseur to help sort out our longstanding planning, zoning, and code enforcement issues.

This discussion took place in two segments due to a discrepancy over the location of a non-compliant property on Jordan Road (US 64) near Bojangles. At that point the discussion was put on hold while Ms. Wood contacted our code enforcement officer, Dennis Pinnix, to verify the property in question. Both segments have been merged into one video, which begins with the first few minutes of the meeting.

The first part of the discussion involved several properties within the downtown business district. These cases included alleged signage violations on the side of one building, a metal carport and wooden privacy fence, a storage trailer located behind a business, and a travel trailer used as a residence behind the barber shop.  All of the above cases were being brought to the board for abatement, having been in process for about six months or more.

Commissioner Randy Cox recused himself from voting on the travel trailer issue since he is the occupant. He had requested an extension until April 15, 2019,  in order to comply.

Commissioner David Overman pointed out that this case had been in process for as long as the others listed above, and was of a similar nature. He stated his opinion that all cases should be handled equally in order to be fair to everyone involved. He then made a motion to that effect, which was seconded, and discussion began.

During discussion, Commissioner Grant Cheek stated that code enforcement had recommended allowing the extension for Mr. Cox, however, according to Ms. Wood, the code enforcement officer made no such recommendation.

Commissioner Vickie Caudle pointed out that the trailer issue has been ongoing for several years, and asked why it, among other cases of similar standing, is only now being brought to the board for action? Ms. Wood responded that the code enforcement officer can only act upon written complaints, implying that no complaint had been made prior to sometime last year.

The question was called and the board split, with Commissioners Overman and Caudle voting for the motion to proceed with abatement, and Commissioners Cheek and Smith voting to allow the April 15th extension. Mayor Danny Shaw cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the extension.

Code enforcement cases are typically matters between property owners and local government, so why was Commissioner Cox asking for for more time to comply? The property where his travel trailer is parked, 1520 Main Street, is listed on Randolph County tax records as owned by Helen C. Lawson of Lee Layne Road. Mr. Cox rents the property and as such should have no standing in the debate nor should he be the party requesting an extension. Property owners in all other cases are being dealt with directly, so why not this one?

According to county tax records, Randy Cox is part owner of a residential property located at 4602 Hinshaw Town Road, outside Ramseur town limits. Were he to reside at that property he would be disqualified from holding a seat on the Board of Commissioners. Why were Commissioners Cheek and Smith, and Mayor Shaw, willing to allow him an additional three months to abate this problem? Why were the other property owners downtown not afforded the same privilege?

There were a number of other code violation cases brought before the board at this meeting. One in particular involved property near Commissioner Overman’s home on Lineberry Street. Mr. Overman recused himself from that discussion and vote.

Over the course of this part of the meeting it became obvious to everyone in the room that the Town of Ramseur has no uniform process or schedule of fees for handling code violations and enforcement. Near the end of the discussion the Board voted to give Ms. Wood a small budget to begin putting together such a document in the near future.

The next item on the meeting agenda was the report from Commissioner Cheek on water, sewer, and public works issues, and will be taken up in a future post.