Westover closes zoning change issue

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2005

To the dismay of a number of residents, the Westover Town Council finally brought to a close the issue of correcting an ordinance regarding the continuation of existing structures.

Over the opposition of Westover Town Councilmember Susan Wooten and in the absence of Councilmember Ed Bahr, the council approved a much-anticipated amendment to its zoning ordinance.

The change eliminated a condition that a structure (home, barn or manufactured home) could not be replaced if more than 75 percent damaged. It also allows up to one year to replace the structure.

A crowd of residents at public hearings of the Zoning Board and the town council repeatedly voiced their displeasure over the town’s zoning ordinance since it was originally discussed.

Many questioned the right of the council to tell citizens what to do with their property, to tell them to get a building permit to replace something they already had and to limit them only to replacing what had previously existed.

Still others questioned the notification process.

Following the Aug. 16 vote, Wooten thanked the crowd for coming, but added, &uot;Just sorry it didn’t help.&uot;

&uot;I just wish the council would have worked with the citizens,&uot; she said following the meeting. &uot;They say they are willing to work but didn’t show it.&uot;

William Shultz, who spoke from the crowd, requested to be on the agenda for the next council meeting to discuss the legality of the zoning ordinance. He said he planned to bring his attorney, with whom he said he has discussed the matter for about two months.

Mayor Mark McLaughlin said the town is willing to work with existing residences and that the zoning ordinance is to control new growth.

He also called the ordinance a &uot;method&uot; to work things out. He asked residents to give the system a chance, indicating no building permits or variances had been denied.

McLaughlin said that in 2004 the council held more than a dozen public hearings on the issue. He said notification was posted and the hearings were discussed at council meetings. And he pointed to articles that were published about the meetings and public hearings in the media.

McLaughlin said even the Regional Planning Commission posted notices of hearings beyond the places regularly used by the council.

The mayor said regular posted locations included the Fire Department, the Water Works, Town Hall and the location of Western Leisurewear.

In answer to some questions, McLaughlin explained that a person would not have to rebuild a structure within a year but merely get a building permit to rebuild it.

One resident asked whether heirs to his property would be able to divide it and build a home or whether the ordinance would disallow that new structure.McLaughlin tried to explain.

&uot;The town is focusing on development and new growth. Is the town going to work with the people here? As far as I am involved, yes, sir. These things will just be worked out, one at a time,&uot; he said.

&uot;That’s what we are going to do, work together to make these things happen. Are we concerned about you, the people here now? No. But (we are) concerned about people coming.

&uot;We don’t have any permits that have not been approved. Let’s work together and see if we have a problem. Right now no one has been denied.&uot;