Running out of patience

Council studies ‘problem’ of compliance by both home-based businesses and vacant building owners

By Fred Arnold Telescope publisher
Belleville city leaders describe it as a problem that’s been allowed to go on entirely too long.

On Monday members of the local city council discussed two hot-button issues: people who operate businesses from within a residential area and vacant commercial buildings.

Belleville Mayor Blaine Miller noted the importance of both issues and urged the council to find a forward path in dealing with both problem areas.

:e find ourselves dealing with something that has gotten to be commonplace,” he said. “The key now is to identify what if anything needs to be done and get it moving.”

With regard to home based businesses city leaders were in agreement that the enterprises that are garnering the most attention aren’t day care centers, pre-schools or beauty shops.

“We have some people who are so far out of compliance it’s ridiculous,” councilman Dr. Roger McCartney said. “These people put up 40 x 60 sheds on their properties, have pieces of equipment on their property and are running commercial businesses.”

“I’m not blaming the city clerk or current council but in the past it was allowed because someone tore down an old house and it was decided that a pole shed was better than what was there,” he added. “Now we have people with lawn mowers and other things all over their properties; we all know who we’re talking about without naming names.”

City manager Neal Lewis said one way to deal with problematic areas is by using conditional permits.

“We can require people to come in on an annual basis and fill out a permit requesting their location be used for what ever purpose,”he said. “If they are out of compliance with the zoning regulations, we simply do not have to renew the permit. and they are out of business.”

City leaders also took a no nonsense approach to dealing with vacant commercial buildings within the city limits. Council members said what happened to the downtown block of The Republic Hotel cannot be allowed to happen again.

A list of approximately 20 buildings were identified as potential problematic areas. The council agreed that letters of inspection will be sent to each owner requiring that building stay withing or be brought up to city code guidelines. Failure to do so will result in a series of increasing fines.

“At some point when the fines get large enough we’ll get their attention,” Lewis said of building owners.

Both items, the zoning ordinance and downtown building ordinances, will be sent to legal counsel for final review.