Council approves RV park ordinance, kills abandoned property ordinance

Mar. 8—After two votes and many questions, an ordinance addressing abandoned properties within city limits was voted down during Monday's meeting of the London City Council.

Ordinance 2023-15 brought some concerns from council members — primarily that council members often do not have time to review all the documentation before the issue comes to a vote.

That prompted an exchange of opinions with Weddle stating that ordinances are generated from concerns from citizens. He added that all ordinances presented to the council have come from the Mayor's office, not from the council members.

Mayor Randall Weddle said the city has an ordinance regarding blighted property but it needed an update to better allow for cleanup.

Councilman Justin Young questioned the number of members on the Code Enforcement board, which was explained by City Attorney Larry Bryson as being specified under Kentucky law.

Kelly Greene said she planned to vote no to the ordinance primarily because she wished to look at the old ordinance closer. Greene said she was concerned with the enforcement procedures involved.

Weddle said the people had asked for the ordinance and that while he understood Greene's concerns, the new ordinance better defines the procedures. That ordinance includes a fine of $3 per $100 of property value.

Weddle said the new ordinance, Ordinance 2023-15 gives the city "some teeth" in the enforcement process. He said tabling or postponing the ordinance's first reading would allow "humans outside of this council to decide how someone is subjected to fines or anything else." Weddle added that the ordinance would give every citizen equal treatment when going before the Code Enforcement Board.

"This gives you the right to say what goes on on that board," Weddle said. "What I'm hearing from the citizens is that there's no consistency on that board when they get there. With this, John Q is treated the same as Nancy Smith."

Bryson added that some properties had posed problems for the city in the past under the former ordinance. He cited one abandoned dilapidated property that was once considered for "imminent domain," stating that the only way the city could have taken that step was to state that the property was to be used for "public purpose." That brought the consideration of widening the roadway at that property — but would have cost the city over $1 million to do.

Bryson also pointed out that the fees associated with the blighted property would be added to the regular property tax.

"This ordinance provides the teeth we need," Bryson said.

That, however, still didn't convince council members to approve the ordinance. Councilman Stacy Benge asked to table the ordinance until the April meeting, with Greene joining his vote. Councilman Donnie Philpot then made a motion to approve the first reading, with Holly Little siding with that motion. But Young, Greene and Benge all voted no to that, sending the ordinance for discussion in the April meeting.

Greene said she believed issues addressed before the council should be sent two weeks prior to meetings. Greene said making decisions on issues affecting the public need more review.

After four postponements in previous months, council members did approve the RV park ordinance. Weddle said the current proposed properties were "grandfathered in" but that Ordinance 2023-11 would regulate future developments similar to the current RV parks and campgrounds.

Other ordinances approved were:

Ordinance 2023-06, which addresses annexing along U.S. 25 from Levi Jackson Park entrance to Cumberland Gap Parkway in southern Laurel County. That ordinance passed unanimously and will be in effect once it is published in the local newspaper, as required by state law.

Another ordinance affecting Levi Jackson Park was approved as a three-tract section reaching along the park property on KY 229. Ordinance 2023-13 underwent its second reading and will become effective on publication in the local newspaper.

The hiring of Josh Wilson as City Building Inspector prompted the first reading of an ordinance addressing inspection fees that the city can now retain.

London Mayor Randall Weddle said that Wilson is a Level III Inspector and can now conduct inspections equal to the state requirements. That would allow the city to collect the inspection fees and would speed up requests for inspections by local businesses. Hospitals and state owned, high hazard facilities and child care facilities are excluded from those local inspections as state agencies regulate those, Wilson said. Weddle said some local businesses had been waiting for three months for inspections and would enhance the business environment in the city. Council members voted to read the ordinance, approving it unanimously.

Ordinance 2023-16 addressed the fire safety issues and will allow the city to bill insurance companies for services. Council members questioned whether property owners would be billed, with Weddle and Bryson both answering no. They did reaffirm, however, that the new ordinance would allow the fire department to bill insurance companies, not citizens. Council members voted unanimously to approve the ordinance's first reading. Ordinances must undergo two public readings for approval and be published in the local newspaper before becoming effective.