After multiple issues discussed during last Tuesday's Verona board of aldermen meeting were determined to be better handled by a separate entity, the board voted to re-form a planning and zoning commission for the city, as the terms for members of the previous commission have expired in recent years.
The topic was first brought up during a discussion regarding building inspector John Cowen's response letter to Alderman Michael Haynes. Haynes sent a letter to the city clerk on June 19 in which, among other concerns, he said Cowen had been "harassing" tenants of a property -- owned by Haynes -- at 213 North Third Street. Haynes' letter stated, "The building inspector told the tenants they were not allowed to live there due to the unit being in a commercial zoned area of Verona."
In his response letter, dated June 26, Cowen denied Haynes' claims, stating, "One visit is not harassment," and that he did not tell the tenants they had to move, but rather asked if they had a business license, as one was "needed in conjunction with living on the property."
The original letter also stated that Haynes had asked the inspector to provide names and addresses of other citizens living in the commercial district and whether or not he had spoken to tenants living in a duplex on Second Street, despite the building being zoned single family residential. In his response, Cowen stated he had never been asked either of those questions.
The major point of contention regarding the letters at the meeting, however, was Haynes' question of who had "directed [Cowen] to conduct this harassing."
In both the response letter and the meeting, Cowen stated again that he had only made one visit, which did not constitute harassment, and that he had been directed by a city official to make the visit. He said he would only disclose the name of said official if the council deemed it necessary.
Haynes continued to seek an answer, at which point City Attorney Darlene Parrigon advised him that if he was asking as a city council member, as opposed to a citizen, there was the potential for a conflict of interest.
Ultimately, the council asked Cowen to return to the next meeting with a statement on how the matter will be addressed.
The board also briefly discussed the need for a new planning and zoning commission to be formed, a topic that resurfaced when Mayor Joseph Heck asked about the city's current procedure for applying for variances. Since no forms or procedure are currently available, the board moved to reinstate a commission to handle such matters in the near future. Members will be appointed at a later date.
Also in old business, Heck made four nominations to fill the seat on the board vacated by the resignation of Brittany Thomas. The mayor nominated Terry Ray, Tammy Jenkins, Rebecca Maples and Eddie Carey, but each nomination failed to receive a second after motions were made by Haynes to approve of each, as aldermen Linda Gates and DeDe Hutson voted "no."
After other small matters were handled by the board, a vote was made to move into closed session, where the council voted to give a $1 per hour raise to Rick Wright and hire Nicholas Washam as a volunteer fireman.
The next monthly meeting for the board of aldermen will be held at 7 p.m., August 22, at city hall.