The Soddy Daisy City Commission on Thursday agreed to give a trailer park owner more time to clean up his property, and also decided to end city garbage service to trailer parks.
A hearing on an ordinance to rezone land at 9713 Barbee Road from R-5 single lot mobile home district to MH mobile home district had been advertised for the last commission meeting on July 19 where it was decided to return to the discussion at the Thursday meeting to give anyone interested the ability to make comments.
The property in question is the Hidden Hills Trailer Park. The owners want to clean up a portion of it and have that portion re-zoned to permit only recreational vehicles. A great deal of opposition to the plan came from the planning commission which had recommended against it, from the commissioners and from the public. The trailer park as it exists now was purchased three or four years ago, and the new owner admits it was rundown. When he came to the commission to be licensed, a promise was made to the city that the area would be cleaned up. In the ensuing years, however, it appears that very little has been done toward that end, and the site remains an eyesore even though the owner says work has been done, it was stated.
Tom Beene told the commissioners that it is “a process” to improve the park and that it cannot be done overnight, but he has been working on it. He has bought a house nearby for the manager to use while overseeing the business. He has gotten rid of nuisance tenants, removed old trailers and replaced them with new ones and rented dumpsters, the commissioners were told. He said one problem is that people who don’t live in the park come to dump garbage on the property.
For the portion he wants to convert to an RV park, Mr. Beene said he has hired an engineer and an attorney. He is planning to invest $400,000 into creating an infrastructure to provide city water and sewer service, to build an internal road, and to re-grade and create drainage and retention ponds. The revised park would provide spaces for 25 RVs for primarily transient residents. Currently there are seven vehicles at the park owned by employees of the Sequoyah nuclear facility. Each resident would have to obtain a permit from the city for a six month maximum period and would be required to re-apply if they wished to stay longer. The new manager said she has begun doing credit and background checks on the new applicants.
Mayor Jim Adams said “it is an image problem” with some lots having four or five cars parked, cords are strung about, grass goes uncut and there are large areas of bare ground. There is also a small shed on the property where someone is living. The commissioners told the owner that it is his responsibility to clean it up, even though the trash might be put there by non-residents. They also told him that as an owner, he should establish rules and enforce them and put restrictions on the conditions and type of RVs that will be accepted. Vice Mayor Janice Cagle said that just because these are low income residents that it doesn’t mean the area has to be nasty and that they don’t have to deal in drugs. According to the mayor, there have been around 590 police calls to the trailer park over the last several years.
It was concluded that the park would be given up to six months to clean up the area so an improvement can be recognized. If the mission is accomplished before six months, the park can come before the board at that earlier time. The work will be documented as it is being done and the owner will coordinate his work with the city manager and police department. Furthermore, Hal North, attorney for Hidden Hills, told the commissioners that if the owner of the park doesn’t follow the law, he should be cited, which should further protect the city.
Trailer parks also figured into the next discussion about garbage pick up. When figuring property taxes, the entire parcel of land is treated as a single property. However, in a trailer park, there can be many separate lots within that parcel. Several years ago Soddy Daisy discontinued a billing plan for garbage service and instead added the sum onto the property tax bill. The charge allotted for garbage covers one can per property. A trailer park also is one property but may be divided into many separate lots with many garbage cans.
When the cost of garbage pickup was added to the tax bill, Soddy Daisy discontinued the service for all commercial businesses. At that time, several trailer parks fell through the cracks and have continued to get the service. According to Mayor Adams, the city is losing around $10,000 each year because the city is paying more to the garbage contractors than they are collecting from the trailer park owners in taxes.
City Attorney Sam Elliott told the commissioners that they must treat all businesses the same, and trailer parks are considered to be businesses. He said the city would either have to extend or take the service away from all commercial properties or establish a fee structure. He said it’s a matter of equal protection. Now taxpayers are subsidizing the trailer parks. The commissioners voted to discontinue the garbage service to all trailer parks and give them notice that it will end on Oct. 1.
Because the current provisions of M-2 zoning were established long ago, some are obsolete and others seem excessively restrictive to City Manager Hardie Stulcie. Therefore, he proposed an ordinance to change zoning in the Soddy Daisy Industrial Park in order to fill some of the empty buildings. Representatives from several businesses that are located there came to the commission meeting because “the broadness” of the proposed M-1 zoning could present a problem in the future.
Representatives from Filter Specialistsm which is located at the industrial parkm came to the meeting to let the commissioners know how important clean air is to their manufacturing process. This company manufactures filters for many types of liquids. Their business is dependent on cleanliness and clean air. They feared that the proposed zoning changes could open up the park to dirty manufacturing.
AYS America, another company with facilities in the park, was equally concerned. This company offers contract packaging services and does business wrapping various candy products. Their representative told commissioners that workers can’t even wear perfume since the chocolate could absorb it from the air. Both businesses said they had to change air filters frequently, because of the dust produced at a gravel business that is already in the park.
Attorney Elliott suggested conditional re-zoning which would subject any new business, to review by the city in order to get a permit. The commissioners unanimously approved this plan on first reading. The second reading and final passing will be at the commission meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16.
In the city manager’s report, Mr. Stulcie tackled the off-premises sign ordinance. He said that the city should enforce the law evenly, not pick and choose who to punish. Soddy Daisy has signs everywhere, said Mr. Stulcie, with about 500-600 illegal ones. Equal enforcement would mean targeting churches and schools along with the others that are prohibited by the law. He told the commissioners that they either needed to enforce, amend or abolish the existing ordinance. Political signs are the exception to the rule and are allowed at any time on personal property and are restricted to 30 or more days on city property. Vice Mayor Cagle suggested revising the ordinance to make it more lenient.
The elementary school PTA was given permission to hold a Fall Festival at Veteran’s Park. City parks cannot be used for events to raise funds unless the commission gives the approval to do so. The PTA is trying to raise funds for a new playground at the school. Booth fees will be $25 and tickets will be sold to enter.
Another concerned citizen spoke to the commissioners telling them it would be wise to have a way to screen for guns at commission meetings and at the town hall. This thought was spurred by the shootings in Aurora, Colo. and Atlanta several years ago.
There was a special presentation of a slide show of the fire department, with the chief and 10 firefighters present at the meeting. On the 4th of July the fire department participated in competition with six other departments in the area and came in first place. Mayor Adams presented them with a plaque in recognition of this honor.
The next meeting of the Soddy Daisy Commission will be Aug. 16.