The Greensboro City Council spent far longer discussing whether to delay a public hearing and vote on the good repair ordinance that it has spent over two work sessions and two meetings discussing the 3 cent tax increase.
In fact, if you eliminate discussions of bus fares, the Council spent longer discussing a continuance of the good repair ordinance at the Tuesday, June 18 meeting than it did discussing the 2019-2020 budget this year.
The good repair ordinance will set minimum standards for all the nonresidential buildings in Greensboro. Nobody seems to know how many buildings that is, but regardless of the number they will have to comply with the good repair ordinance.
Tuesday night with a packed agenda and a fairly full house the City Council spent a full hour discussing whether or not to discuss the proposed good repair ordinance. In the end the vote was 7-2 to not to discuss the proposed good repair ordinance and delay the public hearing and vote on the ordinance for 30 days. Councilmembers Justin Outling and Nancy Hoffmann voted against the continuance.
Outling the champion of the good repair ordinance stated that this was something that had been discussed for months and talked about for years and it was time to vote it up or down.
In keeping with Council policy at the beginning of the business portion of the meeting Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that there had been many requests for a continuance of the public hearing and vote on the good repair ordinance which was Item 32 on the agenda, and they would discuss the request for the continuance first.
Councilmember Yvonne Johnson then made a motion to continue the item for 30 days. She said, “I’m certainly going to be supportive of an ordinance but I’ve gotten over 16 calls from people many of them in the audience that have asked that there would be a continuance.”
Outling objected to the motion as being out of order because Johnson had not pressed her button to make a motion first. Outling then made a motion to approve the ordinance with implementation in 60 days.
There was quite a bit of back and forth between Outling and Vaughan about the validity of the two motions and Council procedure.
Johnson said that she made the motion because she had discussed it with Vaughan and had been told that was the proper time to make the motion.
When asked by Vaughan, City Attorney Chuck Watts said that to vote on the ordinance without holding a public hearing first would not be in keeping with the law and that the mayor had the discretion to decide which motion was in order.
Vaughan picked Johnson’s motion whether or not Outling’s motion was ever seconded is questionable. No second was ever announced, but councilmembers seemed to be having more trouble than usual turning on their microphones, so some of the discussion was unintelligible to the audience.
Much of the discussion was about the proposed ordinance and how strong it should be and not about the continuance.
Outling said several times that the continuance was being pushed through because of one “special interest group” and noted that this special interest group had had ample time to give input on the ordinance because it had received copies of the first proposed ordinance prior to the City Council receiving copies. The special interest group Outling never refereed to by name is the Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC).
Outling does have a point, publicly TREBIC had been oddly silent about the proposed ordinance until recently.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower said that businesses in East Greensboro had been left out of the discussions of the ordinance. She said that she wanted to make certain that any ordinance the Council passed did not have ill effects on small businesses in East Greensboro and that business owners in East Greensboro needed to be included in the discussions.
Watts said that the city had had good meetings with stakeholders one lasting four hours but his impression was that those at the meeting didn’t believe they had completed their work on the ordinance.
City Manager David Parrish said the city could set up meetings on the proposed ordinance every Thursday during the 30 day delay with the exception of the week of July 4.
The good repair ordinance is currently scheduled to be on the agenda for a public hearing at the Tuesday, July 16 meeting in the Council Chamber.
The good repair ordinance on the agenda for the June 18 meeting was markedly different from the ordinance that Outling pushed the City Council to vote on in April.
Many of the changes suggested by the stakeholder group had been made such as a clause stating that if the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) had a conflict with the North Carolina Building Code, the North Carolina Building Code would take precedence.