This story has been updated from an earlier version on Nov. 20.
Jerome Town Council called a special meeting Tuesday, Nov. 14, to discuss abatement of public nuisances.
Town attorney Bill Sims expressed concerns with the current planning and zoning code that provides very limited options when it comes to dealing with a public nuisance like a dilapidated building.
“Right now, the exclusive remedy is a criminal route,” he said. “The question becomes: To what extent do we use the criminal process to respond to your neighbor’s infractions?”
The current statutes [108, 109 of the Jerome Zoning Ordinance] allows an individual to step in without judicial supervision and address a public safety matter.
Sims cited a case where a house was infested with hundreds of cats and when a neighbor called to complain, officers ended up forcibly removing the resident from the home.
“We ended up losing a huge lawsuit,” Sims said. “Even though the statute said you could do it, our courts were offended that law enforcement went into the woman’s house, took her out and then removed her cats.”
Jerome Police Chief Allen Muma added that this has been an ongoing issue for years and that he recalled bringing it up in 2009.
“I’m not the building inspector, but we’ve been doing this for years,” he said. “We keeping talking about it but nothing happens.”
Sims recommended amending the code to allow remedial measure of a hearing officer.
“What you would do is have a hearing officer go out to a problem building to where there is destruction and try to talk to the property owner and give them a chance to remediate it,” Sims said. “That is the best solution.”
Council agreed that the goal was not to throw neighbors in jail and directed Sims to prepare an ordinance to amend town code to allow for a hearing officer.
The ongoing saga of parking continues in Jerome as Sims addressed Council concerning commercial parking in the Jerome C1 district. He recommended amending a zoning ordinance that would allow businesses to keep their parking even if they change their business.
“In Arizona we protect people’s property from laws that change, it’s called nonconforming use rights,” he said. “If there is a business in the C1 district that was in existence when the ordinance was passed, the parking is grandfathered. The problem with that is that the way zoning laws work, courts really frowned on nonconforming use because they want districts to be uniform.”
Sims said that if a postcard shop decided they also wanted to start doing wine tasting, it might lose its parking spaces the way the ordinance is written.
Council was hesitant to entertain changing the ordinance, however, for fear of making it easier for franchises like McDonald’s to move into the town. Chatter in the audience expressed concern of Jerome becoming gentrified like Sedona.
Councilman Hunter Bachrach said there was already not much stopping Pink Jeep Tours from coming to Jerome.
“My biggest fear is that this town is going away,” he said. “If this place turns into Uptown Sedona, nobody will want to come here.” '
The special meeting adjourned with no action taken on commercial parking.
Cell Tower Sites
Town Council reconvened later that evening during a regular meeting and discussed options regarding legislation that passed last spring regarding placement of small cell sites in Jerome by Verizon Wireless.
House Bill 2365 says wireless providers can place towers and cell sites in the city’s rights-of-way without much say from the city itself.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey expressed his excitement for the bill passage as it will allow Arizona to be the first state to “pave the way” for 5G cell service.
“The legislation, by making it easier to add capacity to existing wireless networks and, thus, improve our infrastructure, will go a long way in solidifying our reputation as a state where new and exciting tech companies can set up shop and flourish,” Ducey wrote.
Excitement was not quite the feeling Council and Jerome citizens expressed at the meeting. While Sims suggested a standard licensing agreement, Councilwoman Alex Barber said she was concerned about health problems with additional cell sites. Audience members had similar sentiments.
“I hang my head down in shame, Verizon,” Barber said.
Council recommended that Sims work with Verizon to find a possible compromise.
The next Town Council meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Kelcie Grega can be reached at 282-7795 ext. 126, or email firstname.lastname@example.org