BELLOWS FALLS -- A draft public health and safety ordinance will remain tabled until the Bellows Falls Village Board of Trustees votes by at least a 3-2 margin to bring it back into discussion.
Trustee Deborah Wright said she, Stefan Golec, Andrew Smith and Colin James voted to shelve the topic until further notice. Wright said Village President Roger Riccio voted against tabling the issue.
A majority vote on the board will from now on be required before the draft ordinance, written up by Village Attorney Ray Massucco, can be discussed at a trustees' meeting. Wright and Golec object to portions of the draft they think gives the village government too much power.
Wright said she does not like the draft ordinance because she feels it is too militaristic and carries no input from the trustees.
"It takes the power of the people right out of the equation," she said, adding that there are similar ordinances already in effect.
Wright cited specifically the language in Section 6 of the ordinance, which pertains to building inspection. The ordinance states the building safety officer, a position that has not yet been created for the village, can force an inspection of any building, structure or property upon learning it violates specifications of the ordinance. An ensuing inspection would begin with the owner receiving a written notice of intent at least 24 hours before the inspection can occur.
Wright believes this
"It's pretty discriminatory," she said. "That's not enough time."
She also dislikes that the ordinance would give a building safety officer the authority to take action without having to first go to the trustees, and makes the vacant building permit process too lengthy.
Smith told the Reformer he believes the village already has adequate ordinances -- such as the unsafe building ordinance -- that cover a large portion of the issues the draft ordinance seeks to address.
He said one element that resulted in a great deal of concern from property owners within the village was Section 6, Paragraph C.
It says the building safety officer can, if the owner of a building, structure, or property fails or refuses to consent to an inspection, obtain a search warrant from the Windham Superior Court: Criminal Division. The warrant would be executed for "the purposes of determining and ensuring the structural integrity of the building, the repairs necessary to ensure its structural integrity, that it will be safe for entry by police officers and firefighters in times of exigent circumstances or emergency, and that the building and its contents will not present a hazard to the community."
Golec has a problem with the basis the officer needs to issue a fine. He also wonders if the village taxpayers need the redundancy of another ordinance.
The draft ordinance also states the findings and purpose of the board of trustees and provides a definition to certain terms, such as "dangerous building" and "trash."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.