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published on 06/13/2006

Town Council Meets

By staff writer

The Town of Signal Mountain Town Council met for its regularly scheduled meeting on June 12, 2006, at the Town Hall. Mayor Bill Leonard was out of town so Vice-mayor Steve Ruffin presided over the meeting. Also present were Councilmembers Robert White, Lizetta Paturalski, and Bob Linehart. Town attorney Phil Noblett, town manager Diana Campbell, and town recorder Sherry Morrison were also present.

The meeting began with the approval of the minutes from nine meetings between May 9th and June 7th. Vice-mayor Ruffin then suspended the regular meeting and called for a Public Hearing on annexation.

The Town Hall was filled to capacity. Most present were there to voice concern over zoning issues. Once the Council made it clear that the Public Hearing was to discuss annexation, questions were answered concerning that subject. Citizens were reminded of the Growth Plan that was voted upon and put into place in 2000, which called for this annexation after March 31, 2006. Councilmember Paturalski pointed out that if the Town did not annex the land designated in the Urban Growth Plan (UGP), then the Town would not have control on how it developed. And all land annexed are subject to current Signal Mountain zoning laws.

The Public Hearing was closed and the regular meeting resumed. The first order of business was to pass a resolution authorizing the purchase of a police vehicle. After voting to do this, the council passed on second reading six ordinances. One amending the zoning ordinance relative to non-conforming uses; the next three adopted a plan of services and extended the corporate limits of the Town of Signal Mountain; the fifth amends the Town Code regarding gas permit fees; and the last one revised amended sections of the International Residential Code regarding fences.

The last two ordinances voted upon on first readings, which passed, were one to amend the budget and the second to adopt the 2 budget and set the tax rate. The current budget had to be amended to allow for certain revenue changes. The tax rate for 2006-07 will remain the same as the current tax rate. Both these ordinances will have a second reading at the July 10, 2006, regularly scheduled meeting.

Vice-mayor Ruffin invited members of the audience to address the Council. This lasted for an hour. The majority of people present were against development on the mountain and wanted the Town Council to put a moratorium on subdivisions. Many people spoke against the Shackleford Ridge development, Councilmember Robert White’s property in Old Towne, annexation, traffic and over-crowding, rapid growth, zoning changes, and dismay in how the Town Council has handled these issues as one resident stated, “stuffing down our throats.” Some complained about the high school and the CVS.

Town Attorney Phil Noblett was called upon several times to explain the laws relating to some of the issues brought to the meeting. One being that the Planning Commission is mandated by the state of Tennessee to handle things the way they are handled pertaining to certain issues about zoning and they have authority over the Town Council on these issues. He also tried to explain that while a moratorium is one option, legally the Town Council could not call for one as it did not have the authority to do and also the process for annexation through ordinance had already begun.

A resident of Hidden Brook addressed the issue of speeding in Hidden Brook and especially her street, Windy Way. Although the Signal Mountain police had been asked to help curb the problem, nothing had been done so she wanted to initiate the “Drive 25, Keep Kids Alive” program in Hidden Brook. Councilmember White said that he and Officer Craig of the SM Police Dept. had discussed this program and suggested she talk with him and Chief Boyd Veal, who was present in the room.

Finally, members of the Town Council were given an opportunity to speak. Councilmember Paturalski asked how residents could get the Star Newspaper from being dropped in front of their houses. Attorney Phil Noblett read a statute stating that distributing this was unlawful. Included in this statute is the law prohibiting flyers to be attached to mailboxes, cars, etc. such as the one distributed to people to get them to the meeting. A $50 fine for each flyer could be imposed if the Town so ordered.

Councilmember Linehart remarked on how many citizens who showed up for the meeting, make their point and then leave, not hearing the responses by the Councilmembers at the end of the meetings. He called for the community to be civil in their actions and that 30 telephone calls to his house in one day were unproductive; that, "There has to be a better way to communicate." He stated that he is a proponent of growth as long as it's moderate growth and he believes in property rights and does not want to completely restrict the developers and their right to develop. Mr. Linehart also praised fellow Councilmember White for his philanthropy in the community, but did say he personally wished Mr. White wasn't doing the development in Old Towne. He reminded all that, "We are not going to have massive growth, and we don't need to put a gate up at the bottom of the mountain."

He stated that if they don't like what they see happening on the Town Council they should express their opinions in the ballot box in addition to the meetings. He also pointed out that someone had confused him with Councilmember Ruffin praising Ruffin for voting against the zoning ordinance when in fact it was himself. This he knew since Mr. Ruffin had not been in attendance at any of the Planning Commission meetings or Council meetings over the past eight months when the zoning ordinances had been discussed or voted upon.

Vice-mayor Ruffin responded to Mr. Linehart's comment by reminding everyone that he ran on the promise to not rezone Signal Mountain, therefore he had no intention of voting for the rezoning ordinance so their was no point in him attending the meetings.

The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM. The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, July 10, 2006, at 7:00 PM in the Town Hall.
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