FARMINGTON -- Farmington will not consider any new requests to rezone property to multi-family residential for six months, through Jan. 12.
The Farmington City Council approved an ordinance July 12 imposing a temporary moratorium on multi-family requests to give the city time to adopt a new future land use plan and to review regulations for multi-family zoning designations.
Mayor Ernie Penn recommended the ordinance to council members.
He said the pause will give the planning commission some relief from such requests as it finishes the work on a future land use plan and reviews zoning ordinances. The plan and any changes to zoning ordinances will have to come before the council for final approval.
City Attorney Steve Tennant said it's not uncommon for cities to place a moratorium on actions at times. Farmington has had moratoriums in the past.
Penn was asked if the six months could be extended. He replied that he thought six months would be enough time, and the moratorium would automatically expire on the deadline listed in the ordinance. The council would have to adopt a new ordinance to extend the Jan. 12 deadline.
Maintaining Premises, Structures
The council placed two ordinances on first reading. One deals with unsightly and unsanitary premises, and the other ordinance provides for the condemnation and removal of houses and buildings that constitute a nuisance within the city limits.
Farmington already has an ordinance that requires premises to be kept free from weeds, rank grass, garbage, rubbish and other unsightly and unsanitary articles. Weeds or grass that are over 6 inches in height are considered a violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance also requires property owners to eliminate or remove any stagnant pools of water that could become a breeding place for mosquitoes and other insects.
Tennant said the difference in the current ordinance and the new ordinance is that property owners will have seven days, instead of five days, to make corrections after being notified in writing by the city about any violations.
The other change is that the city would be able to place a lien against any property that has been cleaned up by the city in violation of the ordinance.
Concerns From A Farmer
One resident, Ashley Phillips, who attended the meeting through the Zoom app, said he was concerned how the ordinance would affect family farms in Farmington that are finding themselves now bordered by residential developments.
The ordinance allows grass to be higher than 6 inches for property in Farmington that is zoned A-1, agriculture, if it is cultivated for the production of plants or agricultural purposes. However, it says owners of A-1 property that borders residential and commercial property will be required to maintain the growth of weeds and grass to prevent the property from "becoming a harbor for snakes and rodents."
Phillips said he understood the need for the ordinance to hold people's feet "to the fire" for not being a good neighbor, but he was concerned with the way the ordinance was worded.
He wondered if farmers now living next to new residential developments should be worried every time a snake goes under the fence into someone's back yard.
The farmers don't want to be in a situation where they are receiving multiple letters from the code enforcement officer, Phillips said.
The penalty section of the ordinance allows fines to be assessed for a conviction of violating the ordinance. The penalty is up $1,000 for the first offense, up to $2,000 for a second offense and up to $4,000 for each subsequent offense.
Tennant told Phillips this ordinance applies to someone who is not maintaining their agricultural land.
"It's more where somebody does not cut it at all," Tennant said, adding, "If you absolutely didn't maintain your farm at all, I can see where it would come up."
Tennant told Phillips that he didn't think it would be a problem.
"It never has been," Tennant said.
No changes were made to the ordinance, but it was placed on first reading and will be discussed again in August.
On the second ordinance to address the condemnation and removal of houses, buildings or structures that constitute a nuisance within the city limits, city council member Keith Lipford said he agreed with the ordinance but was concerned with the "vagueness" of the word nuisance.
Lipford said he would prefer the ordinance define the word nuisance.
Tennant said there are multiple definitions for nuisances in state law, but he did not want to limit what would be considered a nuisance by the city.
Penn noted the ordinance is about structural issues, not complaints such as the color of a building.
"I think a logical person understands what a nuisance is," Penn said, noting it's a general term that deals with the safety, health and well-being of that structure.
According to the ordinance, the city council would have to pass a resolution declaring that a property constitutes a nuisance. This resolution would describe the structure and state why the building is considered a nuisance.
The property owner would be notified in advance about the resolution and would be allowed to address the council about it at that meeting.
If the council passes a resolution, the property owner has 30 days to remove the building or abate any problems. If the property owner does not do this, the ordinance gives the city the authority to demolish the house or structure.
The ordinance authorizes the city to place a lien on the property for its net costs in removing a building or house. The ordinance also has fines.
Tennant said he would research definitions of nuisance before the council considers the second reading of the ordinance in August.
New Fire Engine Approved
In other action, the council approved a request from fire Chief Bill Hellard to purchase a new fire engine. Hellard said the new engine will replace a 1987 Pierce Engine that does not meet current crash safety standards. Maintenance costs on the 1987 engine have exceeded its current value, according to a memo from Hellard to city officials.
The council approved an ordinance to waive competitive bidding for the new engine.
The new fire engine will be the first one "out" to respond to calls, Hellard said.
Hellard said he was requesting the new fire engine, which is not a budgeted item, because it will take about 12-14 months to manufacture the engine, and prices for some of the materials will increase later this summer.
The city has received a quote of about $600,000 from Pierce Manufacturing Inc., in Appleton, Wis., for a new Pierce fire engine. The council approved Hellard's request to purchase the engine for an amount not to exceed $650,000, including any contingencies.
Penn assured the council the city could afford the new fire engine. He said the city has $5.4 million in its reserve accounts, and sales tax revenues continue to increase. Year to date, revenue from local and state sales tax rates are up by $360,000, compared to the same period for 2020.