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Housing Ordinance on Hold, Fines for Illegal Dumping
October 2020 Town Board Meeting
October 13, 2020

ctober’s Board Meeting ran long, dominated by a conversation with the town’s attorney. Commissioners received a report on the conditions of Oriental’s roads, the Whittaker Point Restoration Project, and the progress of the county’s new recycling program hours.

town hall signCommissioner Overcash was not present. However, there was a quorum. Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Allen Price, and Martin Barrow sat at the front of the room with one seat between each of them. Commissioner Dianne Simmons sat at the back of the room. Mayor Belangia and Commissioner Simmons were masked.

Town attorney weighs in on dilapidated/abandoned housing ordinance
M. Scott Davis of Davis Hartman Wright, PLLC attended Tuesday’s meeting. As a result of prior meetings, Commissioners and members of the Planning Board both had several legal questions about the pending housing ordinance. Davis drafted two documents for the Commissioners; one on nuisance abatement with corresponding state statutes and one on resolving nuisance issues. A bald man wearing a white shirt and with glasses pushed onto his head gestures with his hands while he speaks.
M. Scott Davis. is the attorney for the Town of Oriental.

In January 2021, a new state-level statute is set to take effect. With that in mind, the boards have been looking to construct an ordinance to address buildings that present a health and safety concern. The new statute is nearly 20 pages of description and procedure, targeting everything from health to looks.

The Boards have stated time and again they are not considering the aesthetics of any building, and have been looking to keep the ordinance as simple – and state compliant – as possible.

Commissioner David White said he did not want to “weaponize the population to say ‘I don’t like the look of that house’ or to go after someone who is economically challenged.”

Town Manager Diane Miller said both the Board of Commissioners and the Planning Board “are finding that this is more than anyone wants.”

Davis replied the Town could “start small and do more as you need it, rather than adopt the full 18 page [ordinance].

“The best way to deal with this [abandoned/dilapidated building issue] is to have a relationship with the owner and deal with them directly,” Davis told Commissioners. He advised being ‘unreasonably reasonable’ – to give owners more than is expected, including extending time frames or working out payment plans to help owners rehab, demolish, or sell the properties rather than enter into foreclosure. This tactic would also help the Town in the long run if a court became involved, showing the Town had made every attempt to remedy the situation before seeking a legal avenue.

Davis said the approach would also save the town money; demolition, legal fees, all cost. And most property owners wanted to keep or rehabilitate their properties, but lacked the resources (monetary and legal) to do so on their own.

Any ordinance that would be enacted would be a complaint based system, Davis said, not property enforcement. “What we’re talking about now are houses that everyone would agree could not be safe.”

The Town could start small with a “General Nuisance Abatement to deal with unkempt properties and storage of junk.” Procedures for dealign with the Abatement would need to be added to the General Ordinance.

Commissioner Martin Barrow suggested the boards take Davis’ information and “see how it works through other discussions,” opting to hold off on making any final decisions at this time. The Board agreed and will not draft an ordinance at this time.

Vines grow up an abandoned two story frame house covered in black tar paper.An abandoned red brick building on a street corner. One front window is boarded over with a sheet of plywood.An abandoned two story home covered in faded wood planking. Pieces of large advertising signs cover large holes on the second story wall.
Three of the structures pinpointed by the Board as abandoned/dilapidated structures.
New Recycling Hours at Oriental Recreation Park
October 6 was the first week for the new recycling program at the Oriental Recreational Field. Large recycling containers used to sit out, unmanned at the field and it was more often than not used as a dump site for household trash.

Oriental has a trash pickup contract, and so household trash is collected on a weekly basis. Most of the county does not have regular trash pickup and the recycling center has become a trash dumpsite instead of a recycling one. This month, the county instituted a new program where staffed containers are at the recycling sites one day a week. The intent is to deter trash dumping.

Joe Valinoti, Oriental’s recycling coordinator, visited during the first day of operations. The initial attendant on site was not properly doing his job, Valinoti said, allowing people to place household trash into the recycling containers. A call to Garry Cooper, the Pamlico County’s Parks and Recreations director, had the first attendant replaced by noon.

Town Manager Miller said Cooper also called her and gave her the license information of a truck that had pulled into the park and, seeing the new attendant guarding the containers, dropped 4 bags of household trash into the cans at the dog park.

There is a town ordinance against dumping, Miller said, and anyone caught dumping – including the person who dropped their trash at the dog park – would receive the maximum fine allowed by town ordinances: $500 per infraction.

No dumping signs are being made for the park that state the ordinance and the amount of the fine.

Whittaker Point Restoration near 90% complete
Restoration services have been placing oyster bags along the point, including underneath ledges that have been scalloped out by wave action. More oysters will be placed in late October to November and volunteers will be needed. If you wish to volunteer, contact Manager Miller at manager@townoforiental.com with your name and availability.

Police Report
Officer Nic Blayney gave Tuesday night’s report. He said there was nothing significant to report for the month other than a fight that was being handled by the county.

Officer Blayney, with assistance from Belinda Barrow, applied for and received a grant for $24,500 for an upgrade to police equipment and systems. Currently, Oriental’s officers handwrite all reports. Blayney did an assessment of the department’s needs, including the ability of the department to communicate with Pamlico County Sheriff’s Office more effectively – Blayney said the radio systems did not always work this far out in the county, even with VIPER radios.

The grant will pay for a new computer, case management software, and mobile dispatching software integrated with Pamlico County’s systems. The funds have taken a burden off the budget, Miller said, thanking Blayney and Barrow for their efforts.

Replace Police Charger
Town Manager Miller asked Commissioners to consider purchasing a new police vehicle to replace the current police charger. Funds are being set aside for a future purchase, but the charger is becoming unreliable now.

The Charger, she said, was never meant to be a police vehicle to begin with and the cost of maintenance and repairs are growing. She cited the Kelly Blue Book value at $8,428 and this year’s repairs at $3,153.

Commissioners agreed to move ahead with researching and pricing a new police vehicle.

Manager’s Report
• A new development is coming to Oriental. In April of 2019, approximately 30 acres of land at Shorey Drive and Tarpon Drive was annexed into Oriental’s town limits. Developers are submitting plans for residential construction in the area.
• The Street Assessment from J.M. Teague Engineering came in. It maps the condition of all roads in Oriental from best to worst. Town Manager Miller said the Board will take up road repair at the next quarterly workshop meeting in January.
• The playground equipment at the Recreational Park on Straight Road is in need of repair. Town Hall received photos of broken rubber and exposed metal on the equipment. Pamlico County Parks and Recreations Director Garry Cooper is checking to see if there are funds to replace the equipment. Cooper said that when soccer leagues start up and use the field, the younger siblings of the players use the equipment. The park is jointly maintained by the Town of Oriental and Pamlico County.

Town Board Appointments
Two residents have submitted applications for volunteer town boards. Kenneth “Butch” Rasmussen has applied for a position on the Parks and Recreations Board. Chris Bensabat’s application is for any board, “as needed”. Bensabat is outside the town limits, but Boards allow up to two nonresident members. Both applications were approved.

Town Auxiliary Board Minutes
Several of the Town Auxiliary Boards submitted their meeting minutes for review. Some boards meet monthly. Other boards meet only when there is a need. Here are the Auxiliary Boards and a brief synopsis of their current projects. All meeting minutes are available in the links at the end of the article.

The Parks and Recreation Board is continuing their public survey regarding use of the Recreational Field on Straight Road.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be moved from Tuesday, November 3 to Tuesday, November 10 due to the election. The Board meets at 7p in the large board room at Town Hall.

Related Information
• October 2020 Agenda
September Meeting Minutes
• Housing Ordinance
Budget Amendment
Oriental Board Appointment Applications
Police Report
Manager’s Report and Town Financials
Auxiliary Board Reports

Posted Tuesday October 13, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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