Some members of the Soddy Daisy City Commission on Thursday night told fellow Commissioner Shane Harmon he needs to clean up his business location. Commissioner Harmon, who is one of three commission incumbents seeking re-election, said he was being targeted because of the current election.
Before he began, Commissioner Gene Shipley apologized for having to bring up the issue he was about to talk about. He initiated his comments by saying that about six weeks ago he had started trying to get the matter taken care of behind closed doors, but had gotten no response. He said that for the last several weeks he, the mayor and others on the commission had been hearing a lot of complaints about code violations for the location. He said it was a particularly sticky subject for the city manager and director of public works because it concerns the business owned by one of the city commissioners, Shane Harmon.
He said that there are multiple vehicles, a storm shelter and lots of junk sitting around the exterior of the property and that it needs to be cleaned up. He said the property in is violation of the zoning in the area that was put in place to protect the neighborhood. He added that it continues to get worse and worse and made a motion to require the piece of property to come in compliance to zoning within 30 days. Commissioners passed the motion unanimously.
In response, Mr. Harmon agreed with the assessment that the property is dirty and cluttered and needs to be cleaned up, but asserted that the accusers should have talked to the actual owner of the property. “But he doesn’t live in the building,” replied Commissioner Shipley.
There are a lot of places all over town that are not compliant, Commissioner Harmon stated, and repeatedly said that he was being targeted because this is an election year.
Commissioner Shipley asked Commissioner Harmon how he could tell the trailer park to clean up, at the last commission meeting when his residence was in the same condition. Vice Mayor Janice Cagle told him, “How can we ask the codes enforcer to write orders for other properties and not yours?” She said, “All we’re asking is for you to clean it up.”
Commissioner Harmon ended the exchange by saying that he would clean it up because "it’s my duty.”
An ordinance passed by the commission on Aug. 2 was called into question by the owner and residents of Tall Pines Estates, a mobile home community in the city. For garbage removal, the city pays Waste Management around $7.50 per month for each residence in Soddy Daisy. The cost to do this is included in city property taxes and includes one can per dwelling. No commercial business receives garbage service from the city with each being responsible for providing their own dumpster or hiring a private garbage company. For several years, the local trailer parks fell through the cracks, and continued to receive trash pick-up.
It is the opinion of the commissioners and City Attorney Sam Elliott that all businesses must be treated equally, and that a trailer park is a business. Another consideration for the commission is that most trailer parks pay one property tax, yet the property is divided into many separate lots, each needing the sanitation service and causing the city’s costs to be greater than the taxes received on the property.
According to Drew Hollenbeck, owner of Tall Pines, his park is different from the others in the town. He said there is a distinction between a mobile home park and trailer park. His is the former and is a nice, well kept community geared primarily to retirees. Owners of the trailer park pay taxes on the actual land, but he said one other difference from other trailer parks, is that in Tall Pines, while the property itself is owned and operated as a business, the mobile homes that are in it, are privately owned. Hamilton County assesses the homes for tax purposes and sends the amount for each, to owners of the park, who in turn bill every residence their share. Of the amount paid in property taxes almost 75 percent goes to the county and the remaining portion goes to Soddy Daisy.
Mr. Hollenbeck told the commissioners that since the residents pay property taxes they should receive city garbage service. The city contends that the park is a business run to make money and that while Soddy Daisy is not losing money on this particular business, the policy concerning garbage collection for commercial businesses should still apply.
Mayor Jim Adams told the concerned residents that he would discuss the matter with Attorney Elliott when he returns for a legal perspective as well as with Hamilton County officials. He said “If we’re wrong, we’ll get it right.”
In other business, an ordinance was passed on second reading to rezone the Soddy Daisy Industrial Park from M-2 Wholesale and Light Industry District to M-1 Industrial District. Several existing businesses located in the park are very sensitive to environmental conditions and have expressed their apprehension over a business being allowed that could harm their manufacturing processes. Mayor Adams assured them that there is legal language in the ordinance to give the city commissioners the final say-so in approving tenants for the park and to make sure that the businesses located there will keep the air and water quality up to par. He said by changing the zoning requirements, the city is attempting to fill up the park.
In his report, Mayor Adams said that recently he had picked up on a rumor about the city being in financial trouble and he wanted to reply to that. He listed the vehicles and equipment that the city has acquired since last winter and told the audience that it was all paid for and the city is in the black. He said Soddy Daisy keeps a half million dollars in the budget for a rainy day fund. He said the city owes nothing and is in great shape.
Mayor Adams also told the commissioners that the WWTA is mailing out letters to those on the sewer system. He explained that an EPA edict charged that the sewer system be brought up to certain standards. The WWTA will be checking the “laterals” which go from a building to the main, for leaks. If repairs are needed, the WWTA will make them, that is what the extra $8 monthly fee is for, he said. The letters being sent are for giving the authority a right-of-way to do the work.
The Soddy Daisy 10-year-old all stars were honored by the commissioners at the Thursday meeting, for the many accomplishments they achieved and awards received this year. They had a great season said Mayor Adams, but he was exceptionally impressed by the good sportsmanship award. He said that this award says something about the parents and coaches as well as the kids, and that they need as much recognition as the kids for that.