The White Pine County Economic Diversification Council (EDC) held a special workshop meeting aimed at looking at and fixing issues facing housing availability in White Pine County.
The EDC voted to approve sending a recommendation to the Ely City Council and the White Pine County Commission to consider adopting an unconventional setback provisions which, according to the draft provided during the meeting: are intended to provide flexibility for the placement of structures in the existing residential zones in order to increase usable lot area. Unconventional setbacks in residential zoning districts can be utilized when the standard requirements make the property unusable without otherwise engaging in the variance or conditional use process.
“These are for some of these smaller lots that we have all over town that have basically become unusable unless they go through a variance process and all that,” Ely City Building Inspector Brad Christianson said. “This would take them and relive them of that extra burden.”
Among the requirements include no structures shall be within three feet of side adjoining side and rear property lines, approval of a submitted site plan, structures designed by a professional, structures closer than five feet to a property line must meet fire resistive provisions of the residential building code and more. The item will now be placed on both the County Commission and City Council agendas.
“I think this is a great start,” White Pine County Commission Chairman John Lampros said.
The EDC also voted to recommend the City Council and County Commission jointly hire an attorney to handle complaints concerning properties. White Pine County Building Inspector Chris Flannery said any complaint he looks into on a property must be approved by the District Attorney before it moves on in the process. And when the DA’s office is faced with large amounts of work, it can be difficult to move the process along in the time given to start the process. Once a complaint is filed, a public hearing must take place between 30 and 40 days after the complaint is filed.
“Initially it takes a lot of time, it really does,” Flannery said. “You’ve got to make sure you’re on point because if you’re not on point you’re open for liability…it’s taken to the attorney. The attorney has to approve it. Once it’s approved, then it goes forward.”
The item will then go before the City Council and County Commission and details, such as costs, where funds will come from, etc. will be worked out if both boards choose to pursue this item. But despite having to work out some details in the future, this is something that needed to be done, Lampros said.
“We’ve got to take the bull by the horns,” Lampros said. “Stop making excuses for this and that…these governing boards have to get off our butts, including me, and start doing something instead of sitting around…There’s some work to be done here, but we’ve got to start it.
The EDC also discussed possible USDA programs that may benefit homeowners and/or investors to redevelop and/or purchase property with USDA funding support as well as the Ely City Council’s decision earlier this year to offer special incentives to a property owner/prospective buyer to offset demolition fees if a structure is rebuilt within a year to motivate residential redevelopment. City Councilman Randy Lee said refunding fees do not add up to a large amount of money but helps to give owners/potential buyers motivation to rebuild quickly on a lot.
The EDC discussed recommendations regarding a marketing campaign to educate the community on the rights of tenants, minimum standards for rental property and whom to contact if a rental property problem arises.
“We need to give them some awareness on how they proceed to execute their rights,” Annette Brown said. “Some people just don’t know.”
Christianson said if its manufactured housing, the city building department can refer people to the department of manufactured housing, which is out of the city’s jurisdiction. For renters in non-manufactured housing, the EDC said an attorney should be contacted, but not everyone agreed that is feasible for renters.
“That’s where it stops,” Brown said. “Because they’re thinking dollar signs and that I can’t afford an attorney.”
Discussion also revolved around whether renters should put themselves in a sub-standard rental property to begin with, or hold out to try and find more adequate housing and that by providing more quality rental choices for people to choose from can help alleviate the problem of substandard rental properties in the area.
Comments from the public included the procedure to complain about a business not keeping up its properties (a person can file a complaint against a business) and how much the condition of surrounding buildings affects other homeowners.
After a first meeting that identified several issues, EDC Chairman Wayne Cameron said he is pleased with the direction the EDC is headed and the progress being made.
“I think we had a lot of great discussion and a lot of issues brought up that people have been scared to say before,” Cameron said. “I think we’re moving, I really do.”