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Large crowd at public hearing heard by City Council members

 

Tom-Lohr

A rezoning ordinance that would have cost those who rent houses more money and limit their rights died on the floor at Walterboro City Council’s August 28 regularly-scheduled meeting.

The proposal failed to pass after members heard many opposing comments heard concerning the zoning proposal, which would have severely limit the rights of city residents concerning rental properties. The meeting was filled to capacity before the public hearing, but soon emptied after council members unanimously moved not to pass the ordinance.

“This is almost like living under Hitler,” said David Altman, the owner of a lumber company and rental properties within the city limits, compared council’s plan to Germany’s practice of placing yellow stars on houses in which people who were of the Jewish faith to identify them. “It’s like we are putting, with all due respect to the Jewish religion, the Star of David on certain houses.” Altman continued the city would “be singling out a few” folks if the ordinance was to pass, adding that some residents just wouldn’t be able to handle the extra money involved.

According to Wikipedia, a Star of David, often yellow-colored, was used by the Nazis during the Holocaust as a method of identifying Jews. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939 there were initially different local decrees forcing Jews to wear a distinct sign – in the General Government e.g. a white armband with a blue Star of David on it, in the Warthegau a yellow badge in the form of a Star of David on the left side of the breast and on the back. If a Jew was found without wearing the star in public, they could be subjected to severe punishment. The requirement to wear the Star of David with the word Jude (German for Jew) inscribed was then extended to all Jews over the age of six in the Reich and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (by a decree issued on September 1, 1941 signed by Reinhard Heydrich[19]) and was gradually introduced in other German-occupied areas.

  The ordinance would have provided that no person, firm, or corporation can operate a rental unit without first having gotten a residential rental license; that no license will be issued or renewed until the rental unit and its premises have been inspected to ensure that they conform the ordinances of the city and the laws of the state; that within the first year of enactment, licenses may be issued to existing rentals before the compliance inspection, “with the knowledge to the owners that the property must be inspected within the license year; that this ordinance will be implemented in two stages. Courtesy inspections will be made upon the request of the property owner, with no fee, from the passage of this ordinance to December 31 of this year. After that, this ordinance will be in full force and effect; and that additional changes will be made to this ordinance dealing with Purpose and Intent, Applicability, Duties and Powers of the Compliance Official, Licensing; Inspection Criteria; Responsibilities of Owners and Occupants; Dwellings Unfit for Human Habitation; and Penalties and Violations.” A $15 inspection fee (was) also added to the Comprehensive Fee Schedule.     

Paul Walker, who is also a property-handler, also strongly objected to the proposed ordinance. “I’m opposed to this ordinance. Why create an ordinance for a problem that doesn’t exist?” Walker noted the city needs to a better job of enforcing existing ordinances that concerning zoning. He said the timing of the proposed ordinance “is horrible,” adding that, with the economy in poor shape, rental tenants will be the ones who really lose economically because the added costs will be passed on to them.

“This ordinance is too intrusive, too expensive, and has too much government intervention. He added the proposed ordinance was not needed and was not in the best interest of the citizens of Walterboro. I therefore ask you not to pass this ordinance,” Walker concluded

Mike Kachuck, whose wife owns rental properties, also said that the proposed ordinance would be cost prohibitive. He added that tenants are already safeguarded by the latest International Building Code book.

The public comments met with applause and were echoed by several other residents. When the public hearing was over, no member of council made a motion for the ordinance’s passage, and it failed to pass. Realtors Barnwell Fishburne, Sheldon Girardeau, Jackson Hughes, and Alford and Betty Wiggins, among others, also attended the public hearing.

In other business:

–A low bid of $1,074,321.46 was accepted from BES as part of the city’s Parks Improvement Project. The work will include landscaping and irrigation; shelters at Pinckney, Doodle Hill, and Sankey parks; playground work at Pinckney and Gladys Whiddon parks; the building of decks at Gladys Whiddon Park; the building of a sidewalk at Sankey Park; and the resurfacing two courts at the Forrest Hills Tennis Courts and the construction of a pavilion at that location.

Other bids for the project were received were from Carolina Contract Solutions at $2,018,000; and Wildwood Contractors (local) at $1,329,286.92.

Council members were split on the awarding of the bid. Bobby Bonds, Dwayne Buckner, and Randy Peters were opposed to awarding the bid to BES, leaning towards the local bidder. Buckner noted the decision has to do with what is in the best interest of Walterboro’s citizens, adding that it one of the slogans that council should adhere to is to ‘Keep your bucks in the ‘boro.’ But Mayor Young and Councilors Paul Siegel, Tom Lohr, and Charles Lucas voted to accept the bid from BES.

Before the bid was decision was made, Peters noted that the local bidder may be the best choice, but City Manager Jeff Lord pointed out that the difference between the two bids is about $70,000.

–Council granted a request for the closure of parts of Hampton Street, Jefferies Highway, Washington St., Neyle St., and North Miller St. at 4 p.m. for the 2012 Christmas Parade, which will be held at 6 p.m. on December 2.