Thursday, March 31, 2005

Supervisors discuss zoning changes

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Minor but important revisions in the new Marshall County zoning and subdivision ordinances were discussed at the March 21 meeting.

Supervisors agreed to take out modular housing as a permitted residential structure in areas zoned Residential Estate, a new district added during this rezoning. A clear definition of what is modular and what is manufactured, single or double wide, was also suggested to overcome ambiguity.

Also, supervisors favored raising the minimum square footage of heated space in site built homes in RE Districts to 1,200 square feet. The minimum standard of 800 square feet for site built homes will be allowed in other residential districts.

Supervisors nixed the idea of allowing modular houses in RE Districts by special exception.

Supervisor George Zinn III argued that leaving the minimum of 800 square feet in RE Districts would leave those areas open to building of very small homes, despite the removal of potentially cheaper modular housing from RE.

Planner Ben Smith, who was hired by the county to revise the zoning plan, argued against putting dollar values on site built homes as a minimum in any district. He said those values should be included in the subdivision ordinances instead, if at all.

Supervisor Keith Taylor was concerned about providing for less expensive site built homes.

“There’s going to be somebody who cannot afford anything but an 800 square foot, but if they put it beside a large house, it will defeat (property) values in RE,” he said.

“You wouldn’t want a 3,000 square foot and 800 square foot house in RE,” said supervisor Ronnie Bennett.

“In Agricultural-1, you could still put an 800 square foot house or a mobile home, but in RE I suggest 1,200 square feet,” said Taylor.

Smith advised that zoning could do that but to have one zone with higher minimum square footage than another could be challenged in court.

County engineer Larry Britt concurred with Smith.

“You can put it in the zoning plan but it may someday have a challenge for not having the same stipulations in all areas,” he said. “You will see subdivisions with greater requirements than 1,200 square feet once areas are zoned RE.”

Taylor expressed concerns about used mobile homes coming in and language that would assure they are safe and satisfy building codes.

Zoning director Conway Moore said the 1997 standard housing code gives the county a lot of protection where used mobile homes are concerned. The code requires smoke detectors be installed in older mobile homes built prior to that becoming standard. The codes have language for condemning structures not meeting code, she said.

Zinn asked if the building codes contain standards for mobile homes.

Moore said the language stipulates that zoning can require older structures that are moved into an area be improved to meet acceptable standards; rotting boards have to be replaced, for example.

Taylor cited an instance in his district where a mobile home was moved to a site with half a roof of wood and half of metal. He said he is unclear what is acceptable and what is not.

“If it’s not broken in the middle, there is not much we can do,” said Moore.

Taylor said he was concerned about leaving room for exceptions in cases of poverty.

Moore said in cases where individuals want to move a used mobile home or structure to a site, applicants can fill out a sheet before they get a permit stating the condition of the unit and what they are willing to do to make it meet code.

“Maybe we can go look at it, or tell them, you’ve got two weeks to bring it up to specifications or move it,” she said.

“We could do it with photographs or have them sign a notarized affidavit of condition (of the unit),” said Taylor.

Zinn asked how zoning would address extreme instances of poverty.

“What are you going to do about it?” he asked. “There are going to be people who just can’t afford a house and live in a box or under a bypass.”

Smith said there are minimum standards for heating, paneling and weatherproofing.

“What you want to do beyond that, I don’t know,” he said.

“Even on a hardship exception, poverty is not a criterion listed,” said Taylor. “Is there anything in writing for working with people (in poverty)?”

“There’s no problem with that,” said Smith. “Zoning doesn’t address structural conditions and esthetics. That’s housing code.”

Taylor said he wanted zoning to be more flexible and allow more time, if needed, for people to bring a used structure up to code.

Supervisors set May 2 as the date for a public hearing on the new zoning and subdivision regulations.

In other business, the board:

  • tabled action on an invoice from Resourceful Environmental Services for $49,100 until more information regarding the charges is available. Supervisors expressed astonishment that the invoice from R.E.S. was that high.

    R.E.S. billed out $97,000 for the month and collected roughly half of it at the Ripley office.

  • adopted a resolution recommended by the planning and development districts in opposition to a Bush administration proposal to reduce federal funding for economic development and community development block grants by 30 percent. The administration wants to trim $1.8 billion from programs that provide support for poor rural

    communities that provide funds for things like clean drinking water and affordable housing, the resolution stated.

    The program funding cuts represent less than one half of one percent of the current federal budget, according to the resolution, which will be forwarded to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.

  • approved a quote from Megalink to network cable from the courthouse square with 911 dispatch and the sheriff’s office. The quote includes $1,260 to install the cable and a $290/month service fee. County administrator Larry Hall said a savings of $104 per month on the existing system would help reduce the cost of the system which is required for Homeland Security and Emergency Management. VistaMedia offered to network the systems for $2,300 and a $125/month service fee.
  • heard a request from the Mississippi Highway Patrol for four tint meter devices. The meters cost $99 each, according to Monet Autry, who presented the request from four Marshall County MHP officers on to the board.
  • authorized renewal of public official liability insurance with JWF Specialty Company in Indianapolis, Ind. The premium quote represented a reduction of $6,000 over last year’s premium, according to insurance representative Bob Carrington.
  • went into executive session with Monet Autry, justice court judge Ernest Cunningham and the two county constables to discuss a personnel need.

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