West Jeff considers charter changes

(Posted July 7, 2016)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

West Jefferson’s Charter Review Commission is recommending as many as a dozen changes to the village charter. Council members reviewed the recommendations on July 5.

The proposed changes are the result of a series of meetings during which commission members dissected each section of the charter, the document that governs operations of the village.

One of the proposals would allow council to call emergency meetings by telephone notification with as little as an hour’s notice.

“Why would you want such short notice?” asked council member Lorie Cafagno.

Several other council members also said such a policy might violate state Sunshine Laws that set requirements for notifying the public of government meetings.

The commission, which meets every 10 years, also wants to revise the charter to make that meeting every five years. They also proposed that the mayor and council president be placed on the commission.

Mayor Ray Martin and Doug Eakins, council vice president, objected to the idea, saying commission members are supposed to be members of the citizenry, not elected officials.

The commission also recommended it have independent legal council, but not the village’s law director. Council members opposed that idea, saying it would be a large expense.

Regarding a recommendation to review court decisions monthly, Ron Parsons, village law director, said the change would require him to add three members to his staff.

Other proposed changes involve the number of signatures required for a candidate to collect for a chance to get on the ballot, as well as the procedure for filling vacated council seats.

Following council’s discussion of the proposed changes, Parsons asked the commission to meet again to clarify its recommendations and incorporate council’s suggestions. He wants to review the revisions before he presents them again at council’s July 18 meeting.

Once council signs off on the recommendations, they will be placed on the November election ballot where voters will decide whether or not they are adopted.

Grass cutting appeal

Resident Kevin Wade contested the $100 the village assessed to him for grass cutting at his property on State Route 142.

Wade contends that Arnie Booth, the village’s zoning and code enforcement officer, looked over his six-foot privacy fence and decided the grass was too high.

“It was a foot and a half,” said Patsy Thomas, who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Wade said he was unable to return to the property to mow it, and the person who usually mows it in his absence was unable to get a mower in the backyard.

“If I have a complaint, I can go on the property,” Booth said. “I was only doing my job

“If I give preferential treatment to one, then I have to do it to others,” he added. “I have to be consistent.”

Wade said that by going on his property to cut the grass, the village invaded his privacy.

Council member Doug Eakins explained that if the grass is high, the village notifies the property owner, and if nothing is done, then the village has a right to cut it and put an assessment on the property owner’s tax bill.

Council voted 7-0 to uphold the Plan-ning and Zoning Commission’s decision.

Land annexation and other business

Council began procedures to annex nearly 300 acres of farmland west of the village alongside I-70 and going south. The land is in the Paul Fluke Trust and is intended for continued agricultural use, Parsons said.

Council will hold a second reading and possibly vote on the annexation agreement on July 18.

Additionally, council approved a resolution stipulating what services the village can provide to that parcel of land, such as sewer, water, and road and street maintenance.

In other business, council approved an ordinance to amend the zoning fee schedule to add a fee for fire department plan review. This would be paid by commercial developers.

In a 7-0 vote, council rejected a proposal to vacate a portion of an unnamed alley behind Pearl Street and turning north to Frey Avenue.

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