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Harmony City Council Report Line Dancing in Harmony


Mon, Sep 16th, 2002
Posted in Features

Property lines, sewer lines and the budgets bottom line were the focus of the Harmony City Council meeting on Tuesday night.
With more than a dozen citizens in attendance, the council began the meeting with a public hearing for George and Deana Michel of Main Ave South in Harmony. Mr. Michel has requested a variance to build an in-ground handicap accessible garage/entrance on the side of their property.
Since the property sits on a corner lot, the current zoning ordinance requires a 25 foot set back on both the front and side of the house. The proposed underground garage would extend from the side of the house up to the property line and would exceed that set back completely. The Planning and Zoning Commission initially reviewed the request and voted that the council decline the variance.
Mr. Michel aggressively argued that most houses with garages in Harmony exceed the set back and that the zoning ordinances on new development are not appropriate. Mr. Michel said, If a tornado goes through town, nobody would be rebuilding.
Mr. Michel also presented a statement from Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act which gives special circumstances for handicap access to a handicap living space.
Council member Mark McKay, of the Planning and Zoning Commission, explained that the group was hesitant to approve the variance because of the zoning ordinance and because of the heavy traffic at the intersection of Main Ave and 3rd Street SE. Mr. McKay stated, Backing out of the drive-way could be dangerous.
The group discussed the special circumstances involved as well as safety in the area. The Council voted to approve the variance with the understanding that the structure cannot extend into the road right of way. However, Council member Dave Kingsley was opposed stating that he did not like voting against Planning and Zoning Commission.
Sewer Lines
For the past several months, Mr. Gary Ehler of 2nd Ave, has had severe sewer line problems. The problem involves an unusually long private sewer line that connects to six other houses and extends under a city street. The private line has a blockage, which may be under the street, and causes the sewer to back up into Mr. Ehlers home. Mr. Ehler said, The smell and inconvenience are unacceptable.
Even though the other houses are connected to this line, only Mr. Ehler is currently having a problem because of his downhill location. Mr. Ehler claims that the other neighbors do not care, even though the problem will eventually affect them.
Previously, Mr. Ehler filed a small claims suit against the city to determine if the line was private or public. The court ruled that the line is private, which means the repairs are the responsibility of the homeowner. However, the council is very willing to help reach a solution.
The cost of the repair work for the sewer and the street could total more than $143,000. A large percentage would be assessed to the neighbors connected to the private line.
City Attorney Richard Nethercut recommended a meeting with the city engineer, the council and the neighbors to explain the benefits of the repairs and to coordinate an agreement.
Mr. Ehler again claimed that most of the neighbors would not be interested.
He asked if he has permission to dig up the city street to proceed with the repairs. Council member Gerald Shuck said, Yeah, you can tear up the street, but you have to replace it in its original condition. That repair has a cool price tag of $90,000.
With that statement, Mr. Ehler stormed out of the meeting. The council asked City Administrator Joel Dhein to meet with the city engineer to develop concepts to present to the neighbors.
Preliminary Budget
City Administrator Dhein presented the council with the proposed preliminary budget for 2003. The budget includes a large expenditure increase due to several factors. Those factors include: loss of government aid and grants, health insurance increases, cost of living increase and interest payments on bonds. The proposed budget suggests a levy increase of 32.68%, which the council fully expects to reduce before finalizing during the Truth in Taxation hearings in December.
Mr. Dhein explained that this budget is extremely preliminary and many changes will be made. Mr. Dhein said that he will review department budgets and funding options.
The Council approved the preliminary levy resolution for the budget and set a date for the annual Truth-In Taxation hearings for Tuesday, December 3rd, 2002.

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