Salisbury Mayor Vetoes Moratorium

SALISBURY – On Monday, the City Council passed an ordinance ceasing enforcement against non-conforming multi-family residential units, but Mayor James Ireton vetoed the moratorium on Wednesday.

 “This action will prevent Neighborhood Services and Buildings, Permits and Inspections from advancing potential illegal non-conforming uses for investigation,” the mayor said on Wednesday. “Salisbury’s older neighborhoods expected, with the results of the last few elections, that a tough stance would be taken. Council, because it can’t work thoroughly with any sense of timing or purpose, has let our neighborhoods down. Newtown and North Camden residents are expecting the city to continue to fight illegal uses. The Safe Streets Neighborhood Legislation has been over a year waiting for city action and this moratorium will negatively impact our ability to protect the public.”

On Monday, City Administrator John Pick explained the proposed ordinance was first introduced last summer through Ireton’s Safe Streets Legislative Package.

“One of the items that was in in there was a proposal to increase the evidence standards that is necessary in cases before the Board of Zoning Appeals having to do with non-conforming conversions,” he said.

Pick added that during the Sept. 6 work session the council decided there were some other “angles” that needed to be addressed before passing the ordinance and a moratorium, or an authorized period of delay of legal action, was agreed upon.

The ordinance states, the Mayor and Council are concerned that a shortage of safe, code compliant, low and moderate income housing exists in the City of Salisbury and that the past conversions of single-family residences to multi-family residential use provide unsafe and non-code compliant dwelling units in the city, which pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens.

It goes on to say the Mayor and Council recognize that nonconforming use enforcement efforts are being undermined by the practical effect of certain provisions of the hearing procedures set forth by code for the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The resolution passed by unanimous vote on Monday evening would have placed a hold on enforcement against multi-family residences in the R-5, R-8, and R-10 zoning districts that are suspected of being used in an illegal, non-conforming manner, as defined by the City’s Zoning Code, for a period of 90 days, or until new procedures are adopted, whichever is sooner.

On Monday, Councilwoman Shanie Shields said she is in support of the resolution but felt that an added document to the item seemed unnecessary.

A cover memo written by Council President Terry Cohen states the resolution provides the framing of the discussion of the resolution to enact the moratorium. It also provided an opportunity to set the record straight after false information resulted from statements made by the mayor.

“It disturbs me…that the working relationship between council leadership and our mayor is lacking,” Shields said. “I have never seen this done before.”

Cohen clarified that she did not make any personal statements against Ireton but simply addressed the misinformed statements made.

“These things should be settled with the person you have a problem with not in public documents,” Councilwoman Laura Mitchell said. “I just don’t think it is appropriate.”

Council Vice President Deborah Campbell explained the council aims to take the appropriate time to develop an ordinance that makes sure the law is enforceable when it comes to a property that has been illegally converted.

“I think it is worth taking the time,” she said. “The action of a moratorium should not be frustrating to the public … I would say regardless of what you read or heard please be patient with us because we are committed to getting this right.”