In a short meeting Monday night at town hall, Ronda commissioners voted down a proposed nuisance property ordinance.
The split was 3-2, with commissioners Manuel Wood, Helen Porter and JoAnn Royal voting against the ordinance and commissioners Sandra Simmons and Kay Luffman voting in favor of it. The motion to adopt the ordinance was made by Simmons and seconded by Luffman.
Prior to the vote, Kevin Reece, a former Ronda board member and vocal opponent of the ordinance, pointed out that this had been debated for years and said he wanted the issue “resolved, once and for all.” No one else spoke during the public forum portion of the meeting.
Mayor Victor Varela, a proponent of the measure, noted his disappointment in an interview after the meeting. “Our board once again has failed the people of Ronda,” he said.
Asked if the ordinance might be considered again in the future, Varela said, “It’s a dead issue for now,” given the positions taken by current board members.
Deborah Goldman, a former commissioner who has been opposed to the property ordinance, said she was pleased that it was defeated. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “This is not the right thing for the small town of Ronda.”
A public hearing on the measure, considered by the board on and off for years, was held Oct. 28.
The proposed ordinance was written by Ronda consultant Ron Niland and shown to the commissioners during a meeting in early October.
The stated purpose of the ordinance was “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the town, as authorized by part 6 of article 11, chapter 160A of the general statutes of North Carolina (by establishing) minimum standards of cleanliness of properties. These would include properties that pose a threat to the public health, safety, general welfare and property values of the citizens of the Town of Ronda and such conditions, if not corrected, (that) can lead to harm.”
The ordinance would have given the board authority to require property owners to clean up nuisance properties. Wood, on numerous occasions, said he didn’t see how such an ordinance could be enforced and that residents in the town might react violently if accused of having derelict properties.
The ordinance crafted by Niland stated that either the town clerk or someone designated would go to the property in question and investigate the complaint. The matter would then have been referred to the board for consideration of action. If the town had to pay for the clean-up, the town would have been reimbursed by the property owner or a lien would be put on the property.
Niland has said that the language of the ordinance was commonplace and consistent with similar ordinances in municipalities across the state.
In other business, the board adopted an involuntary commitment agreement similar to ones adopted by the Wilkes Board of Commissioners and the Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro boards. In keeping with a new policy enacted by Wake Forest Baptist Health, which leases Wilkes Medical Center, hospital security officers will be charged with securing persons who have been involuntarily committed, relieving law enforcement officers of this responsibility.
Ronda commissioners also unanimously approved a water shortage plan which must be done every five years.