Marion man protests ramp variance fee

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JERRY ENGLER
Harold Conyers protested as bad law the $75 variance fee required for building a wheelchair ramp in a setback area Monday at the Marion City Commission meeting.

Conyers contended the fee for the ramp was “discrimination against a disabled veteran” in a volunteer project meant to benefit A.J. Coe.

Even though Coe’s wife has already paid the fee, Conyers said he would reimburse her either from his own pocket or by raising it in his Sunday school class.

He repeated, “I don’t think you should be doing this to a disabled vet. It isn’t good common sense.”

Susan Cooper, zoning director, explained that the fee is necessary because state law requires that all neighbors to a project be notified by certified mail of any construction in a setback zone where vision to the street could be obscured.

Cooper added that the fee actually doesn’t cover the city’s entire cost, and it must be applied equally to all applicants. The fee was increased from $50 to $75 in March.

City variance information said a permit is required for anything to be built an areas not allowed for development. Setback areas are designed to maintain uniformity of structures, act as space buffers between structures and property lines, and to ensure adequate vision for auto drivers and pedestrians.

On 7 variance applications this year, the city said costs for legal publication and an average 20 to 46 notifications for each totalled $1,095.74 with $525 in fees collected. The actual cost not collected totalled $570.74.

Mayor Eloise Mueller said the city must go according to its zoning rules “even though veterans have done a lot for their country.”

Conyers said the fee seemed especially excessive considering that a building permit costs $5.

Commissioner Jim Crofoot said the rules are in place because someone could also want to build something more objectionable to neighbors, perhaps even a second story that would project outward thus obscuring street vision.

Crofoot said, “None of us enjoys charging A.J., but we have to charge everybody the same.”

Cynthia Blount, city museum director, reported that in the last year new track lighting and carpet have been installed at the museum. Volunteers also are working on indexing and storage for photographs to help preserve them, and make it easier to respond to family history enquiries.

New acquisitions at the museum include a turn-of-the-century shoe collection, a 78 rpm record collection, and the cornerstone from the Youngtown United Methodist Church with a new carving from the church’s last funds.

Blount said visitation in the last year was 1,492 visitors coming from half of the 50 states compared to a normal range of from 1,500 to 2,000 which has been down since the 9-11 attacks. There were 114 visitors during Art in the Park, and 128 at Old Settlers Day.

The commissioners voted 3-0 to grant an exemption permit requested by Margo Yates for a Chamber of Commerce business after hours event Nov. 1 to enable serving alcoholic beverages on publicly accessible land.

Marty Fredrickson, street superintendent, reminded everybody that this is cleanup week in Marion with city curbside pickup of large items at no extra charge.

Fredrickson announced new tree dump hours effective from Oct. 28 to Dec. 31 of from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

He said major expenditures for the cemetary board this year were for new fencing on the east side and trading up for a new lawn mower.

Cooper said she is expecting to hear results in February or March on the city’s application for a community development block grant for upgrading the water plant.

The commissioners approved budgeted expenses for the nine months of 2002 to September with Acting City Administrator David Mayfield noting that with 75 percent of the budget expected to be gone, actual expenses for the period are at 66.1 percent, well within guidelines.

Commissioners also approved the city’s quarterly financial statement and investment and collateral report.

The commission approved paying $13,172.76 in warrants and a payroll for $22,745.66.

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