ES Council work plagued with postponements

Thursday, July 28, 2005

EUREKA SPRINGS --With eight out of 13 agenda items postponed until their next meeting, and Aldermen Butch Berry and Beverly Blankenship absent, the Eureka Springs City Council Monday night did not put much work behind them.

Agenda items postponed to the next meeting on Aug. 8 included:

* An executive session to discuss personnel matters.

* Review of a consultant's report on the possible opening of Corley Street on East Mountain. The consultant, Dr. Van Brahana of the University of Arkansas had a conflicting meeting and could not appear.

* A discussion of the new lease of the Harmon Park Community Building to Eureka Kids. Their attorney has not approved or proposed changes to the lease supplied him by the city attorney. That did prompt Alderman Aaron Falotico to urge the council to stop approved work on the building until such lease is accepted and signed by Eureka Kids executives. All four members voted to postpone the work.

* Discussion of a new fire station at 144 E. Van Buren. Council members want to wait until after an Aug. 1 work session on the budget before giving the architect a green light to prepare documents in order to obtain an estimate on the proposed new construction.

* Discussion of Ordinance 1997 which revises thresholds where competitive bids are required. That is postponed until a new state law changing those bid figures goes into effect in about a month, according to Mayor Kathy Harrison.

* Discussion of a resolution by the Historic District Commission and Planning Commission that the city hire an inspector to enforce their rulings. The aldermen decided to wait until after next week's budget workshop to determine if funds would be available for such an addition to the Building Inspection Department.

* Discussion of Ordinance 1999 which would revise the loading zone size and location at Pendergrass Corner. Recommendations from Police Chief Earl Hyatt will be incorporated into the ordinance prior to its first reading.

* Discussion of Ordinance 2000 which would officially make lower Wall Street one-way down hill. Public input from affected residents will be sought prior to passage of the ordinance.

With those items relegated to future meetings, the four aldermen present unanimously approved Ordinance 1996 concerning grease traps on its second reading. But they were still not pleased with the wording of the ordinance, and Building Inspector Justin Fuson was not present to explain his reasoning for the wording. Of particular concern was the lack of a provision for the use of alternative methods to standard grease traps. While it was speculated that the state Plumbing Code does allow for such alternatives, the aldermen seemed to want that particular wording included in the ordinance.

Also approved on its second reading was Ordinance 1973 concerning sidewalks. The ordinance, which had not previously been approved by city council, was erroneously included in the recent codification of city ordinances by the Arkansas Municipal League. One of the major changes from the existing sidewalk ordinance is that property owners who are required to replace existing sidewalks with imitation limestone (stamped, colored concrete), will no longer be required to have that work done by the city's Public Works Department.

The final ordinance was the one levying the city's tax rate for 2006. The total levy approved was 4.4 mils on the dollar for personal property and for real property, the same rate as currently being assessed. Those taxes will be collected by the County Tax Collector along with other assessed taxes.

Who owns the wall?

Members of the City Council, sitting in their first session as the Board of Appeals in a stone retaining wall case, were unable to determine if the repair or maintenance of a wall on Ellis Grade should be the responsibility of the city or the property owner.

The property owner, Mark Jipp of the Veranda Inn Bed and Breakfast at 38 Prospect Street, had submitted a request on June 1 to Public Works Director Robert Forrest, stating that the wall at the rear of his property was "sagging down and out toward the roadway," and expressed concern that a collapse of the wall onto Ellis Grade would block the public right-of-way and might cause damage to his building.

As of June 29, Forrest had not responded to Jipp's request, which according to the city's ordinance and City Attorney Tim Weaver, amounted to a denial, and prompted Jipp to file his appeal to the newly-formed board.

Producing a copy of a survey of the property, Jipp's attorney, Gerald Kent Crow, told the council that neither he nor Jipp had been able to determine when and by whom the wall was constructed. Crow said that according to an old city map, Ellis Grade was constructed about 1893, and that the building now known as the Veranda Inn came into being about six years later.

While the survey showed part of the wall on and part of it off of Jipp's property, it did not show the street's right-of-way line. The attorneys and aldermen agreed that in many instances, portions of streets encroach on private property and private property encroaches on city streets and is rather common in Eureka Springs.

Ron Tracy, the city's current engineer, said he had inspected the wall more than a year ago and more recently, and could not testify that the wall was failing. He said the bulging section showed no deterioration of joint mortar.

On a motion by Alderman Terry McClung, the Board proposed to continue the hearing for about 30 days, and to hire a surveyor to determine where the street right-of-way lies in relation to the three lots at the top of Ellis Grade. Crow said his client agrees to the continuation, and would not object to the entire six-member board making a decision.

Assuming that they can get a survey executed, the Board tentatively set a date of Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. to continue the hearing.

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