County denied quick zoning hearing
County officials will have to wait for final action on a rezoning application for its proposed use of the former Straubs location after Marion city council turned a deaf ear to their request for an expedited hearing.
The council had been notified by email about the request, but when city administrator Roger Holter told them that Friday would be the earliest a special meeting could be scheduled, he was met with a moment of silence.
“What’s the urgency?” council member Chris Costello asked.
Holter explained that calling a special meeting prior to Feb. 27 would give the county more time to finalize its purchase contract, which expires Feb. 28.
Council members exchanged glances but no words. None offered a motion, no vote was taken.
When discussion finally resumed, it focused instead on procedural issues related to the rezoning request.
Nineteen adjacent property owners were notified of the rezoning request, Holter said, and Thursday is the deadline for filing a petition of opposition. None had been filed as of Monday.
A petition with four signatures opposed to rezoning would be sufficient to meet the 20 percent threshold to negate the recommendation.
Council members could override the petition with a two-thirds vote.
“It will take four of the five of you to override the petition,” Holter said.
An unoccupied house at 714 E. Sherman, owned by Deliliah Belshe of Marion, will be the subject of an April 10 hearing to determine if it should be condemned.
Marty Fredrickson said that the house has been vacant for over a year and that no utilities are connected. Window sills, roof soffits, and siding all show signs of rotting, and evidence of mold growth was found on the east side of the house, he said.
The inside of the house was not inspected, but Fredrickson said that without heat, water and sewer lines could be adversely affected.
County appraiser records list the value of the structure at $5,200. A general standard used in past actions supporting condemnation has been if the cost of repairs would exceed half of a structure’s value.
Fredrickson reported on the progress of repairs at 401 N. Roosevelt, owned by Billy Prater, for which a petition was filed by surrounding residents concerned about safety.
Repair work has focused on interior improvements, Fredrickson said, including bringing water and electrical systems up to code. The roof needs to be repaired or replaced, and siding needs to be painted or repaired, he said.
The house isn’t subject to any formal action by the city, but Fredrickson requested the council approve a July 1 deadline to speed up repairs. Council agreed, with Holter noting that the deadline was unenforceable.
The city is prepared to move ahead with the purchase of new 800 MHz radios, but Mayor Todd Heitschmidt expressed dismay that the county-driven conversion doesn’t include money to defray costs to cities and township fire districts.
“This is forcing us, but we are ahead of the game,” Heitschmidt said, noting the city had budgeted for the conversion. “I’m concerned for the others as well as us if it’s necessary. The sheriff and the county would, I hope, if they’re going to dictate to us, would show a different resolve than what Topeka and Washington do and find the money to help pay for this across the board.
“How can we have a safe county when not everybody can afford this? It does not make sense. I don’t know as we need to be the ones leading the way, but if it’s coming down the pike anyway, we should put ourselves in the best financial position. I don’t think it makes sense to be running different radios if the county isn’t there yet.”
Heitschmidt turned his comments toward county commissioner Dianne Novak, who was in the audience.
“The idea is probably good, but please try to find some money not only for us, but others, so they can afford to make this change,” he said.
Novak responded that she shared the same concerns, and that while the topic wasn’t addressed at that morning’s commission meeting, she believed commissioner Randy Dallke and clerk Tina Spencer were going to investigate the matter.