Public opposes property ordinance

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  • PHOTOS BY MARK LICHTENWALNER The Vernon Township Council discusses sidewalks on Aug. 13.

  • The public crowded the Vernon Township Municipal Center to discuss the township's sidewalks.

The Vernon Township Council will hold a public hearing on Monday regarding a property maintenance office after the public filled the township Municipal Center on Aug. 13 in oppsition to the ordinance.

Known as Ordinance 18-20, it would replace the entire Chapter 447 of the township code.

The ordinance has been in the works for weeks, as Mayor Harry Shortway and Council President Jean Murphy, along with the remaining council members have debated back-and-forth over the necessity of certain items contained, and language used, in what could become the new code.

The purpose of updating the property maintenance code is to, “protect the public health, safety and welfare by establishing minimum standards governing the maintenance, appearance and condition of residential and nonresidential properties.”

While Ordinance 18-20 only makes small changes to the township code, like controlling weed growth and maintaining residences with possible hazardous conditions, such as a hole in a roof and other signs of physical neglect, one particular section drew the ire of the public, mostly residents of Highland lakes. Maintaining sidewalks.

Article III, 447-10, section A dictates, “the owners, occupants, (or) tenants of premises abutting or bordering upon any street in the Township of Vernon shall remove all snow and ice from the abutting sidewalks of such streets.” It would also require those residents to salt and ice on the sidewalks within 24 hours.

Mayor Shortway was not in attendance at this meeting, but Council President Murphy attempted to explain to the public that the purpose of adding sidewalk maintenance was intended for the town center, specifically Church Street, and that the language in the ordinance could easily be changed to reflect that.

But, that did not stop the public from railing on the council for nearly two hours. One after another, members of the public approached the podium to give their reasons for why including sidewalk maintenance would be impractical.

Reasons ranged from the simple fact that some residents do not live here during the winter months, to the topography of Highland Lakes making it impossible to remove large quantities of snow that can accumulate at times.

It was also mentioned that an attempt to make sidewalk clearing was proposed several times over the years, each time failing to become law.

During the public berating, Council President Murphy discussed with township lawyer Joshua Zelinsky on changing the language in the ordinance to reflect the sidewalk maintenance portion to only apply to the Town Center.

The ordinance, with modifications, will come up again for a final vote at the next town council meeting on Aug. 27.

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