The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 13, 2013

Spa City residents object to code

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Citing fears that a vast multi-national conspiracy is on the verge of infiltrating their town, a number of Spa City residents spoke out Monday against a proposed property maintenance code, which officials ultimately tabled.

City Council had already decided to table the third and final reading of the ordinance adopting the code before the six residents vented concerns that ranged from fears of being forced to uproot healthy trees to having their homes forcibly entered by politically-motivated code inspectors.

Several of those who addressed Council during a public hearing on the code’s adoption worried that their trees would fall to overzealous enforcement of the law’s regulation of “noxious weeds” and unkempt lawns.

“The intent of the code is to get people to mow their grass,” City Attorney Steve Hunter explained after two people expressed fear that their decorative plantings and trees would have to be removed in order to comply with the ordinance.

“It refers to ‘noxious weeds,’ not rose bushes or trees,” Hunter said.

Two other speakers made reference to a purported United Nations conspiracy to impose various international codes — including the International Maintenance Code under consideration in White Sulphur Springs — on unsuspecting American communities as a first step to foreign control of the country.

Also mentioned by some of the speakers was the existence of similar ordinances already on the books but not adequately enforced.

Following the 40-minute public hearing, Assistant Police Chief Jerry Smith acknowledged that there are city ordinances that deal with such eyesores and potential threats to public health as junked vehicles parked in residents’ yards. The problem with enforcing the existing ordinances, Smith said, is that the law requires three warning letters be issued before any such vehicle is seized by the town. The vehicle must then be impounded, which is expensive, he said.

“The city has to pay a couple thousand dollars for each (seized vehicle),” Smith explained.

He suggested that residents try to resolve their issues with their neighbors face-to-face before resorting to filing a police complaint.

The adoption of the maintenance code was tabled at the request of Council member Jackson Bowling, who was absent from Monday evening’s meeting due to ill health.

Before the public hearing commenced, Mayor Thomas Taylor read a letter from Bowling, who has also served as the city’s zoning officer. In the letter, Bowling wrote, “I believe we should sit down and take a closer look at the fines and penalties... before adopting this ordinance.”

He asked Council to table the issue until resident-friendly penalties for violations of the new ordinance could be established.

A copy of the proposed ordinance has been available for public review at City Hall for around five months, according to Council member Lynn Swann.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

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