MUNFORD — The first rule is to not believe everything you read on Facebook.
The Munford Town Council confronted a group of angry residents who believed that the town was planning to approve a zoning ordinance, possibly without the required public input.
The council and Mayor JoAnn Fambrough vehemently denied even considering such a move. The people in the audience who had come to protest said only that they had heard about the zoning ordinance on Facebook, but none of them would say who had posted the information.
The people who attended expressed concern that a potential zoning ordinance could affect mobile homes, home business, livestock and more.
The first individual to speak at the work session Tuesday night said he had been told that the council was in the process of appointing a Zoning Commission, which Councilman Billy Wilson said was false.
“About a year ago, this was kind of a hot subject, and I did a lot of research, but nothing has been done with it since, and nothing is being done now,” he said.
Wilson went on to say the council would have to vote publicly to give the mayor permission to appoint a board to study the issue, and that before any new law was made, there would be public hearings, legal notices, comment periods “and a long- drawn-out process that has to be done in public.”
What the council is considering are major revisions to the public nuisance ordinance, which was approved in 2007 but has never been enforced. The nuisance ordinance is not the same thing as a zoning ordinance, by all accounts.
The nuisance ordinance covers buildings that have become unsafe for whatever reason, high grass or weeds, the accumulation of junked or abandoned cars and other machinery in residential areas, rubbish and debris, etc.
The existing ordinance is out of date and needs to be either significantly overhauled or done away with altogether, Fambrough said.
The existing ordinance, for instance, requires the appointment of a Municipal Housing Abatement Board to enforce the ordinance until the council can create and appoint various employee positions to inspect property and determine violations. Neither step was ever taken.
When the board finds a nuisance, the owner of the property is to be notified and the owner is required to address the issues. The council is also notified of the nuisance, and a majority of the council will vote on a resolution identifying the nuisance, outlining how it is to be addressed and give a time limit.The resolution is sent to the last person who paid taxes on the property.
The taxpayer has a right to appeal the resolution to the council. If the issue is not remedied, then the council holds another public hearing authorizing abatement by the town.
According to the current ordinance, “After the public hearing, the town council may, by resolution, order the Munford Volunteer Fire Department to proceed with the work specified in such notice, or may order such nuisance demolished or removed, or the town council may contract with persons, firms, partnerships, corporations or other legal entity to perform, correct, repair if practical or abate the nuisance.”
The ordinance also outlines the appeal process, which goes from board to council to Talladega County Circuit Court, and then to state courts.
The cost of an abatement taken on by the city is placed as a tax lien on the property in question. Violations can also result in fines of $50 to $500.
Some of the people in the audience refused to accept that the council was not attempting to impose zoning regulations, and at least one protested the existence of the nuisance ordinance.
“It’s my property, I worked for it and I paid for it,” one person said. “You have no right to tell me what I can do with my property. If I want to let my grass grow 10 feet tall, you can’t tell me that I can’t do that on my property. Not that I ever would …”
At least one council member pointed out that the person making these comments had asked to be annexed into the town so that her road could be paved.
A decision on whether to rewrite or do away with the nuisance ordinance will likely be taken up Monday at their next regular meeting.