ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Town Council met on Monday night and took up the issue of the removal of an encroachment at 138 South Polar Street in Elizabethtown and came to the consensus to allow Councilman Ricky Leinwand time to meet with Melvin to discuss the matter further and also to allow Town Attorney Goldston Womble to research the possibility of assessing a civil penalty and going to court.
The encroachment in question is the awning on the front of the building that houses Bladen Hardware. The building is owned by Pat Melvin and Eugene Anderson.
Mayor Sylvia Campbell said the town adopted the ordinance in May 2011 regarding the size of awnings because during the downtown revitalization, thew town installed trees and some of the trees were interfering with the awnings.
Melvin addressed the board and said that the language of the ordinance indicates any future actions taken by the owners, not those actions that have taken place in the past.
Melvin showed the board pictures of the building’s facade as it appeared when he and Anderson purchased the building which depicted the awning already in place.
Melvin told the board he had not received any letters or notifications regarding the matter until he was presented copies of two letters addressed to him which were obtained by the Bladen Journal in August.
“I never got a letter certified until I got notification On Aug. 18 so I requested to come before the board on Aug. 20,” said Melvin.
He said he came to the office on Aug. 20 but no one was in. Melvin said he left his business card for someone to call him and he told the board Juanita Hester contacted him later and faxed the form to him. Melvin said he faxed it back and when he called to follow up he learned that that the town staff had not received the form so he dropped it off at the drive through window.
Melvin read the town ordinance no. 100.03 to the board and said the first time he read it was on Aug. 18.
“The awning was there in 1988. So, again ‘no person’ means first person singular, ‘shall’ means future. Now, all awnings up are permissible encroachments ….” said Melvin.
He added that at the time the awning in question was originally installed, it was approved by the sitting board of that time.
“One thing you can’t do is go back…so, therefore it is still in compliance. If I had a fire, I would have to go by this,” said Melvin. “Which came first? The awning or the ordinance?”
He closed his remarks by asking the commissioners indulgence on the matter.
Commissioner Ricky Leinwand thanked Melvin for his appearance and a brief history lesson.
He said, “This is not a mean spirited board. If you look at that building 20 years ago, but, now it looks bad.”
He told Melvin about the town’s facade grant program.
“We appreciate you and Gene. We just need to work this out,” said Leinwand.
Melvin interjected that no one had addressed him and no one from the town staff has come and spoken with him regarding the issue. He noted that he serves on the Bladen County Planning Board and that they are required to send notification letters by certified mail.
Melvin said that if one goes to 2007 and reviews the Bladen County tax base and then looks at the county’s tax base in 2013, the growth in the county is only 2.9 percent for seven years.
“In other words, we’re not doing something right here,” said Melvin.
Leinwand spoke up.
“I still can guarantee you one thing, if we would not have revitalized the downtown, at least 25 percent of the businesses would not be here. The revitalization is the talk of the state.”
After completing his appearance, Melvin left the meeting. Mayor Sylvia Campbell called on Womble to give the board his opinion as to its options.
“What Pat said is true as fas as zoning is concerned…this is not a zoning matter. We’re talking about a town ordinance. In this situation the awning is protruding over the town property,” said Womble. “The town has the right to control what is over its property. We haven’t begun enforcement against hi,m. I would suggest communicate with him. I would carefully consider his position.”
Womble added that due to a family matter, he had been unable to research the matter. He requested time from the board to research the matter and report back at the next meeting in October.
Madden also assured the board that letters were sent to Melvin and as aresult of an earlier article that appeared in the Bladen Journal, visits were made by then-Code Enforcement Officer Bryan Martin and Public Works Director Pat DeVane.
Leinwand also offered in the mean time to meet with Melvin and talk to him further about the matter and try to resolve the issue amicably. The consesus of the board was to give Womble time to research the matter and report to the board his findings at the October meeting and also allow Leinwand to meet with Melvin to furhter discuss the matter.