Never-ending parking dispute resolved again

Staff writer

The Peabody City Council meeting opened Monday evening with Mayor Larry Larsen announcing that he did not sign City Ordinance No. 01-2014, which passed Jan. 27, making the north side of Fourth St. from Poplar St. to Plum St. a no-parking zone.

By not signing the ordinance after the council approved it, Larsen vetoed the ordinance. His intent was to force the council to revisit the issue, discuss it, and consider rescinding the ordinance.

The parking problem arose because Fourth St. is narrow and the homeowner on the north side did not want people parking on the city right of way, which encroaches on her yard. She installed a low fence made of stacked railroad ties to prevent parking there.

The residents across the street felt a city street should be open to parking by anyone wishing to park there.

At the Jan. 27 meeting, the council told the resident on the north to remove the fence from the city right of way. However, council members also voted to make a no parking zone along that side of the street.

Council members had received a letter from Larsen in their council packets on Friday, spelling out why he chose to veto the ordinance by not signing it.

Larsen’s main objection was the parties involved bringing the issue to the council instead of talking to one another and trying to resolve the problem as neighbors.

“The city is in a no-win position. By signing this document I/you are setting in motion for any person … looking at the council to become like King Solomon to decide petty things that should be taken care of by the individuals themselves,” he wrote. “I do not want this to appear that we are taking sides and favoring one party or the other.”

After discussion, Larsen said he stood by his decision, but was not trying to strong-arm anyone.

Council member Janice Woodruff made a motion to keep ordinance 01-2014 as written. Tim Peterson seconded it and it passed 4 to 1 with Pam Lamborn opposed.

Peabody City Council President Steve Rose will sign the ordinance, making it official in the absence of Larsen’s signature.

An issue involving a zoning amendment came before the council.

Mark Whitney and Richard Litton own properties in the 600 block of N. Maple St. A small mobile home occupies the lot between them. They would like to buy that lot and mobile home, remove the mobile home, and divide the property.

The mobile home owner, Ronnie LaBlanc, is willing to sell to them, but needs another place to go. The mobile home is old enough that it does not meet federal, state, or local codes and cannot be relocated in the city. However, LaBlanc owns another mobile home he could live in after giving up the smaller one on Maple St.

Whitney owns a lot at 311 N. Pine St. that he is willing to give LaBlanc except that the property is zoned for R-2 for residential two-family dwellings. Whitney appeared before the Peabody Planning and Zoning Committee for a public hearing Feb. 5 to request that his lot be rezoned an R-3 classification, which would allow a mobile home.

The committee denied the request, paving the way for Whitney to bring it before the council. The council would review the issue and adopt or deny the planning and zoning recommendation or send it back to the planning and zoning committee for reconsideration.

Planning and zoning chairman Jim Rippe told the council that the committee always tries to remove mobile homes from single lots and keep them in areas designated for mobile homes.

“They try to avoid ‘spot zoning’ all over the city and did not want to set a precedent with this case,” he added.

He said they felt reluctant to allow a mobile home across from the tennis courts, the school, and several newer homes within a block or so of the Pine St. property.

Whitney said the vacant lot on Pine St. would accommodate the 16 feet wide by 75 feet long mobile home.

“I also feel it would be good for the city to have someone paying taxes on it and paying for utilities,” he said. “Right now as an empty lot, it generates very little.”

After discussion, Woodruff moved to accept Whitney’s proposal over the planning and zoning committee’s recommendation. The motion died for lack of a second.

Tim Peterson moved to send the issue back to planning and zoning at their March 4 meeting and have them “re-hash” the issue to see if they all are firm in their vote to deny the permit. He requested the council review the issue at the March 10 council meeting. The motion passed unanimously.

In other business:

  • After reviewing donations the city made in 2013, the council approved a $35 donation to the Peabody-Burns High School Adventure Club.
  • Council members reviewed a letter from TASER International, saying that Karbon Arms, supplier of Peabody Police Department’s Electronic Immobilization Devices, has violated its U.S. patent law and that if the city continued to use the equipment it purchased from Karbon Arms, it would be in violation of federal law. Replacing three units will cost $3,495 due immediately. A fourth unit will be added at no charge. The department will make additional annual payments of $555 from 2015 to 2018 and receive three additional units at no charge at the end of the contract. Police chief Bruce Burke said in a memo that funds for the initial purchase are available through Special Law and Fire account and the annual amount will come out of the police budget. Council members approved the purchase.
  • Several council members reported contact from Peabody residents expressing their appreciation to public works employees for getting the streets cleared of snow so quickly.

The next city council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 in the city building.

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