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City council continues discussion of inoperable/unlicensed vehicles

City council continues discussion of inoperable/unlicensed vehicles

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ASHLAND – More discussion of inoperable/unlicensed vehicles took place at the Ashland City Council meeting last week.

On Thursday, the council approved the second reading of Ordinance 1185, which attempts to address the issue of unlicensed and inoperable vehicles within city limits, according to City Attorney Mark Fahleson.

Under the ordinance, residents of Ashland would not be allowed to have vehicles that are partially dismantled, wrecked or needing repair and unlicensed vehicles on their property for more than 30 days unless the vehicles are enclosed in a building. The only exception is where zoning allows for a business that repairs vehicles, car dealers, implement dealers, or salvage operations.

Fahleson said any violations of the ordinance, if passed, would be handled as nuisances.

Mayor Rick Grauerholz asked if the ordinance allows for inoperable or unlicensed vehicles to be stored behind a privacy fence. Fahleson said it does not, but changes can be made to the ordinance before the third, and final, reading goes up for a vote at the Oct. 15 meeting.

Council Members Chuck Niemeyer and Jim Anderson indicated they would not want the ordinance changed in this way.

“I think it needs to stay as it is,” said Niemeyer.

Anderson said if they soften the ordinance, more problems will result.

“We just need to enforce the ordinances and move forward,” he said.

In other action, the council discussed concrete aprons in alleys again, a top that has been on the agenda for the past couple of months. Anderson put the item on the agenda again, as he said he is still unsure what the property owners are supposed to do when they replace a sidewalk over an alley.

The city recently began a major sidewalk improvement project that was prompted by a complaint from a local citizen to the Federal Highway Administration in 2017. An informal settlement agreement was reached between the city and the FHA where the city is mandated to enforce the ordinances requiring owners to repair or replace damaged and/or dangerous areas of the sidewalk on their property.

The city is divided into five sections. Work will be done in a phased timeline that started this year and will move on to the next section in three-year increments.

In many cases there is no sidewalk running across the alley to begin with, so the question has been posed whether the property owners are required to put in a sidewalk where one has never been before.

Council Member Bruce Wischmann said the sidewalks, which are also called “aprons,” are necessary to stop the rock in the alley from washing into the street during a heavy rainstorm.

“It’s a huge issue when we get four inches of rain in an evening and it rushes out into the street,” he said.

Anderson suggested the city only look one or two alleys at first and deal with the rest as they come up.

“Just a few are posing the situation,” he said.

One alley in particular has caught Anderson’s attention. It is the one that runs south of the former library (now the Ashland History Museum). Adjacent property owners are responsible for maintenance of the alleys, said City Administrator Jessica Quady. That means because the city still owns the former library and the land it sits on, it would be responsible for half of the cost of installing a sidewalk over the alley. Quady said it could cost between $2,600 and $2,800.

The consensus of the council was that the city should pay for its share of the alley by the museum. They asked Quady to get bids for the work.

The council also voted to sell a sliver of land to BP Investments LLC, which owns BW’s Pub and Grill. Quady said the owner wants to expand his building to include a storage room and cooler. The council approved the sale.

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