Council approves changes to commission

Published 3:36 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Changes will be made to Picayune Planning Commission in about a month.

At Tuesday’s Picayune City Council meeting the members discussed making changes to the ordinances that govern the city’s Planning Commission. Also discussed in the meeting was an old lot variance request by Rovertus Reed, cleaning up of property on East Canal owned by Frank Brown, sale of the current city hall and a complaint on police officer conduct.

The changes to the Planning Commission that were approved at Tuesday’s meeting include reducing the number of members from nine to seven, the chairperson will now rotate on an even basis, and any member who misses more than three meetings in a year will be excused from the Commission.

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Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. said the changes are being made to help the commission hold quorum meetings on a regular basis. Currently there are members of the commission that do not regularly attend, due to their other life responsibilities. Pinero said those members who do not attend on a regular basis will be the first to be considered for removal to meet the new seven member rule.

City Attorney Nathan Farmer said the ordinance will soon be published in the paper and then will go into effect 30 days after that publication date.

The council unanimously approved the changes to the ordinance.

Earlier in the meeting an issue before the council concerning a 20 percent reduction in lot size, lot variance of 100 square feet and lot frontage variance was finally approved after more than six months of requests and postponements. Property owner Rovertus Reed said he has been before the council numerous times in that six months every time the same request gets tabled. He said he has talked to a number of people and done what was suggested so he can get the variances he needs to build multifamily homes on his lots. Each time he makes the suggested changes he is still denied the variances he needs.

After some discussion with Reed, the council and mayor Council member Wayne Gouguet made a motion to approve Reed’s request. Council member Larry Breland seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.

Gouguet then made a motion to put a moratorium on granting the 20 percent lot reduction variances for non conforming lots until the problems with the ordinance can be worked out between the council, Farmer and the Planning Commission. That too was unanimously approved.

A matter concerning a piece of property that the city feels needs to be cleaned up met with some minor resistance from the land owner, Frank Brown. Brown had two parcels of land on the agenda that the council was considering to declare as a public nuisance. Brown said he is aware of the state of the lots, but does not feel they are a nuisance, especially since the lots have fences, which he later declared to be chain link fences. Pinero informed Brown that in order to be complaint under the city’s ordinances given the lot’s current condition it would require an 8 foot privacy fence.

Brown said he did not see how his property was accessible to the general public and then make a promise to rectify the situation if it was accessible.

“If it gets accessible I can put about six pitbull dogs out there and make sure it’s not accessible,” Brown said in a loud tone.

Brown said he has a house on the property that recently burned and he is in the process of tearing it down, but is dealing with health issues that is slowing down his work. Pinero said all the city wants to do is get Brown to clean up the yard. Therefore the council declared the property a public nuisance and gave him 30 days to do so. Still Brown continued to plead his case that the city will not come on his property to tear his house down and he did not appreciate the apparent threats being made. Pinero said the city is not making threats, the council only wants the yard cleaned up.

“If we were threatening we would have come out there with bulldozers,” Pinero said.

“Well I would have been shooting,” Brown said, again loudly.

Pinero called a point of order and reminded Brown that the council and Brown have now come to an agreement to have the property cleaned up.

Later in the meeting Pinero touched on the possible sale of the current city hall and its adjacent property, asking Farmer how to properly sell the property. Farmer advised Pinero to get an appraisal and advertise for the highest possible price. Pinero said there has been some interest in the property but no official discussions to sell.

The status on the insurance coverage for the burned Mississippi Mall was also discussed. Pinero asked Fire Chief Keith Brown how that process was coming. Brown said last he heard City Operations Manager Diane Miller attempted to contact the insurance agency, with no response.

During the citizen concerns section of the meeting Angela Pittman addressed the council about a problem she recently had with some Picayune Police officers. She said on Friday afternoon at about 3:45 officers entered her home in an attempt to take her son into custody, allegedly for an expired tag. She said most of the time she is coming out of the shower at about that time of day and the situation could have been a serious invasion of her privacy. At one point the officer pulled a gun on her son and cocked during the incident, she said.

She said this is not the only time her family has had dealings with the department. She said on another occasion an investigator, whom she called by the name “Odom”, threatened her son to “snitch” on another person or he would “have the wheel spun on him if he didn’t,” Pittman said.

“I just feel like something should be done about this,” Pittman said.

Administrative Police Department staff were not at the meeting to give the department’s side of the story so Pinero suggested he set up a meeting between her and Chief Jim Luke or Deputy Chief David Ervin to get all the information on the matter.

The council went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter, contractual matter with Bulldog Construction and possible litigation concerning an issue on East Canal Street. Decisions on those matters were not available at press time.

In other business the council;

— Approved the Picayune NJROTC to hold a parade to honor all local veterans on Nov. 14, starting at 2 p.m. The route will start at the intersection of Norwood Street and Goodyear Boulevard and run east down the boulevard, turn right on Main Street, follow Main to West Canal Street where it will turn right and end at the intersection of Kirkwood and Goodyear Boulevard. The public is encouraged to attend, said Pinero.

— Approved the use of the soccer fields at Friendship Park from Nov. 12, to Nov. 14, for a Convoy of Hope event.

— Authorized the Pearl River County Library system to make and application for State Bond Funds worth $143,872 to replace the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library’s roof.

The council’s next regular session meeting will be Nov. 17 at 5 p.m.