By Fred Arnold
The City of Belleville began work on a series of widesweeping changes Monday that would crack down on owners of commercial properties who are in violation of local ordinances.
Council members voted in separate motions to contract with the North Central Regional Planning authority, who will inspect local commercial buildings for code violations as well as approving a measure to notify individuals by letter who are in violation of zoning laws that they can: seek to re-zone their property, get the named property out of violation or set a hearing with the Belleville city council.
Belleville city manager Neal Lewis said Monday’s action was not designed to single anyone out or to punish any business that is not compliant with the laws. He said it was a means to be proactive and motivate people to keep their buildings up and use them for their intended purposes according to code. “Instead of letting businesses
“Instead of letting businesses sit idle or be used for storage, this ordinance lets us go in and do some preventative checks to make sure that things like the back walls and the roods are ok,” he said. “We’re not going to pick on people,” Lewis added. “In the downtown area we don’t want businesses to be used for storage; we want them to be viable properties.”
In a related matter city leaders also agreed to send letters to people who are illegally operating commercial buildings in a residential area. The city manager said the council is not talking about businesses like hair dressers, day cares or schools.
“These are perfectly allowable by law,” he said. “What we’re looking I think is the people who have decided to open a business in their home or garage and what they’re doing just doesn’t met the code for being in a residential area.”
Council member Tiffany Hansen says she sees both sides of the issue. She said she hopes that if ordinances are changed or enforced that the city will give people ample notice. “On one hand I don’t want to live next door to something like that either, I don’t think anyone does,” she said. “But if we force people to change their business we need to be aware of how that will affect their lives, the lives of their families and the business itself.”
Council members agreed that all ordinances needed to be reviewed but that it was important to enforce codes as written.
It’s unfortunate that people are going to have to pay the price for how things were done years ago under the good old boy system,” Hansen said. “I think the council wants to be as fair as they can to people, but we also have to do things the right way too.”