The Pilot Mountain commissioners were getting things done Monday night. After getting the consent agenda and board and committee reports behind them, and before the town manager wound up the meeting with his report, the commissioners addressed six agenda items — some of which have been unresolved for a while — and took action on all of them.
After spending a great deal of time at their October meeting discussing the pros and cons of animals at public events, more precisely, how to open the door to events oriented to dogs and dog owners without opening the Pandora’s box of dogs at other events, the commissioners addressed a revamped ordinance to deal with the issue.
Animals continue to be banned from special events with the exception of service dogs and dogs under the control of on-duty law enforcement personnel, but now, the new ordinance empowers the town manager to issue permits for “special dog/pet related events” with three conditions.
• All animals must be on a leash at all times. Commissioners discussed the possibilities of goat, pigs and chicken events. “As long as your pig is on a leash,” replied Boaz.
• All animal owners must have proof their animal is current on all vaccinations.
• No animal that is dangerous, causing a disturbance, or poses a threat, will be allowed at an event, with town staff and event organizers given the power to make those designations.
The ordinance was passed unanimously.
Streets and sidewalks ordinance
After some discussion of “what looks like sidewalk, but isn’t sidewalk” — as town manager Michael Boaz characterized the part of sidewalks nearest to downtown buildings that is actually owned by the property owner, as opposed to the rest of the sidewalk, which is public property — the board passed an updated streets and sidewalks ordinance that would pave the way for sidewalk dining, and clarify other issues regarding sidewalk use.
Though commissioners spoke in terms that were not specific, they seemed to be addressing past incidents where the agendas of property owners and event organizers have clashed. Boaz pointed out that there is no clear answer as to which part, or how much, of the sidewalk is “what looks like sidewalk, but isn’t sidewalk,” and is, in fact, private property.
After repeated efforts by commissioner Kim Quinn to recommend advising property owners to call the police to settle these disagreements, Boaz called on Pilot Mountain Police Chief Darryl Bottoms to address the situation. Bottoms replied that he, nor his officers, had no choice but to treat the whole sidewalk as sidewalk.
Boaz suggested the only recourse would be for individuals to have a survey done, and have iron survey stakes placed at property lines.
The new ordinance prohibits any activity on the sidewalk that prohibits the free flow of pedestrian traffic. Exceptions in the previous ordinance granted to Salvation Army and street preachers were removed. The same test of blocking traffic would be applied to them just like everyone else. Likewise for buskers and street performers, who were not individually addressed in the ordinance. Boaz told the town board that towns who address the issue of street performers have complicated regulations, and assured the board that they did not want him judging artistic merit.
The proposed ordinance started the meeting defining the amount of sidewalk that must be unobstructed as three feet, but was amended to five feet when town planner Andy Goodall stated that five feet is mandated by fire code.
After hearing that maintaining five feet of clear sidewalk would be mandatory, several commissioners expressed doubts about the possibility of sidewalk dining. “That’s going to be impossible,” said commissioner Linda Needham.
The ordinance was passed unanimously.
Landfill capital project
The second phase of landfill work has been approved by Department of Environmental Quality. Total cost for the work will be $5,803.06. The money is coming from the state, and the project requires no town funds, but a budget adjustment was required to reflect the expense and funding. After being reassured no town funds were being spent, commissioners passed the budget amendment unanimously.
Building regulations ordinance
Town staff recommended that the Minimum Housing Code and regulations regarding building codes be moved out of the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, and be re-codified as Chapter 17. No text was changed, just relocated. Commissioners passed the move unanimously.
Streetscape plan proposals
In the most contentious item of the evening, it was proposed that Charlotte firm Benchmark Design be retained to produce a streetscape design for downtown. The bid for $25,500 was almost half of the other bid received, and was recommended by the design sub-committee of the Main Street group.
“I don’t see spending $25,000 on somebody’s opinion,” was commissioner Gary Bell’s opening salvo. “With all the talent we have here,” referencing the Main Street group and its many committees and sub-committees.
Commissioner Evan Cockerham countered with “We need this to facilitate the talent we have.”
Commissioner Kim Quinn wanted to know when the last design was done. The answer was 2007 and a lot, though not all, of it was completed, answered Boaz.
Boaz added that the funds for the project were available from a staff position that the current year’s budget has funded, but which has not been filled for half of the year. Boaz also pointed out that the proposal included a great deal of input from the community.
After a lively discussion, the commissioners decided unanimously to proceed, giving the contract to Benchmark
Girl scouts recognized
The board passed a resolution honoring Girl Scout Troop #2655 for leading the town in a community cleanup on Sept. 29. The scouts had previously led the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of the meeting, were presented Community Hero Awards and given a photo op with the mayor and commissioners.