Marked Tree City Council passes burning ordinance

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Marked Tree City Council approved an ordinance Monday night to control burning within the city limits. The ordinance stipulates that no one may kindle a rubbish pile without first obtaining a permit to burn from city hall.

Permits will only be given out if the fire chief or his authorized representative checks the burn pile and approves. Burning is only permitted for fallen vegetation -- leaves, limbs, and twigs -- and burn piles should be a maximum of three feet by three feet, 50 feet away from any structure, close to a water source and constantly supervised.

Occasional recreational fires, such as bonfires, are allowed. Burn piles must be put out if someone with a health problem complains.

A violation of the burn ordinance carries a $100 to $500 fine for the first offense and $1,000 to $2,000 fine for each subsequent offense. The ordinance passed with a 7-1 vote with Cleo Johnson, Jr. voting against.

Alderman Shane Glenn presented information on Community Development Block Grants that pay for the demolition of abandoned property. Glenn said the city of West Memphis gets grants to tear down abandoned houses and that Marked Tree qualifies. The grant pays up to $200,000 for the demolition of abandoned houses, he said, but the city has to own the ground.

Glenn noted there are three ways the city could own the ground of an abandoned house: the city could pay the taxes owed on the property, see if the landowner is willing to deed to property to the city, or spend money on the property and put a lien on it.

"After the house is torn down, we could sell the land," Glenn said. "To get this to work, we have to come up with a way to get the ground."

He added that the filing period for the grant is in March and that Representative Buddy Lovell and Senator David Burnett both have offered to write letters on the city's behalf to help them get a grant.

"We get so many complaints about abandoned houses, I think this would be good for the landowners and good for us. I think it's obvious the city hasn't got the money to tear down these houses," Glenn said.

City Clerk Pam Wright suggested starting small instead of pursuing the full amount of the grant to increase the city's chances of getting the grant.

"Let's set a goal of three or four houses," she said.

Mayor Wayne Nichols said the city would pursue the grant. Council members will start identifying potential properties so Wright can send out letters to the landowners to get the ball rolling.

The council also discussed a section of the municipal code stating that in residential areas designated R-1 and R-2, which are the most populated areas, people can set up real estate and home businesses. Mayor Nichols said he thought it was a slip up and many council members agreed the code should be revisited.

The Planning and Zoning Committee will meet before the next council meeting to consider a revision for the council's approval.

The council also discussed why the city is not cleaning out people's sewers anymore.

"We can't afford it," Mayor Nichols said. "You've got a broke town. You can't do all the services you'd like to."

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