Junkers rule, but no more than two
The Nome Common Council approved three ordinances Monday night, two of which pertain to an issue more or less dear to the hearts of Nome property owners.
Folks who love their junk motor vehicles for sentimental reasons, or for personal parts to fix cars that run, or just because, will be able to keep at least two, but not more than two when a new ordinance becomes effective next year.
The ordinance went into first reading two weeks ago with language that allowed junk motor vehicles to be stored only in the pot pourri of permitted uses in the Industrial Zone, effective Nov. 1.
When the ordinance came up for second reading and a vote for final passage on Oct. 9, a vigorous and thorough discussion resulted in amendments to modify the proposed law in second reading to prohibit more than two junk passenger motor vehicles in any zone except for Industrial District, where the sky is the limit, effective July 21 next year. Junk motor vehicles that are registered or insured do not count as junk motor vehicles, Tom Moran, city manager confirmed.
As background, in July, the Nome Planning Commission unanimously voted ‘yes’ on a resolution to allow junk motor vehicles to exist in the Industrial Zone but no other zoning districts, and passed the approved resolution to the Council for the last word, yay or nay.
When it came to a yay or nay in Council on Monday, several residents took the podium to add public comment with Council deliberations, in a “robust market place of ideas.”
Ken Hughes feared that the ordinance as presented before amendments would not be enforced equally across the board and would make criminals of those without resources to avoid the fines. Fines would apply to people who would not remove a vehicle from their property within 30 days or save it from being dubbed a junker by registering it or insuring it. The fine structure in the ordinance would give an offender 30 days to remove a vehicle. After 30 days, the fine would be $50. After another 30 days, there would be an additional fine of $75, then after another 30 days, another fine of $100, and so on, with successive fines capped at $100.
Hughes wanted to find other ways to deal with the situation rather than make residents criminals, who happened not to have space to store a car, or money to buy parts for a vehicle because they were “down on their luck,” he said. How about a buy back of $50 per vehicle, or another way to beautify the town, Hughes suggested.
The ordinance would not make criminals, Brown responded, as all the vehicle owners would have to do to store vehicles on their property would be to insure it or register it with the state.
The ordinance would not make violators of the junk vehicle ordinance into criminals, Nome Police Dept. Chief John Papasodora advised, as enforcement was a civil action, not criminal charge that could be appealed to the Council or the city manager.
“You are not restricting anyone’s rights by passing it,” Papasodora said.
Two newly elected Council members—Doug Johnson and Adam Martinson—raised their right hands and took their oaths of office at the beginning of the meeting. They received an education on junker vehicles during the lengthy discussion.
Planning Commissioner Sara Lizak pressed for passage of the ordinance on junk motor vehicles and gave the new Councilmen some background. Cleaning up junk vehicles was a number one priority that people wanted addressed, according to a 2013 survey, and appeared in the 2020 Comprehensive plan as an objective, according to Lizak. It was time to think of leaving a safe and beautiful community for the generation to come, Lizak added.
The Council got set to vote on the main motion.
Councilman Mark Johnson also expressed that there was already an ordinance on eyesores that the City had trouble enforcing. Enforcing the new ordinance under discussion might be discretionary. “I don’t like the idea,” Mark Johnson said.
As one drives around Nome, there are understandably a lot of things that are unattractive because of the harsh climate or because people don’t want property assessments to go up, Councilman Jerald Brown observed. However, “I don’t think having junk vehicles is something we have to put up with,” he said.
“It depends on who we hire [as building inspector],” Andersen said. “To me there are some glaring places we have to get cleaned up.”
The Council unanimously adopted the ordinance limiting the number of vehicles to two per yard, commenting that it was a good idea to make haste slowly on cleaning up the community.
“The idea is to start somewhere,” Andersen commented.
Another vehicle related ordinance refined the definition of junk motor vehicle to specify junk “passenger” motor vehicle to the City law definition of junk vehicles.
Another ordinance generating discussion amended by unanimous vote the zoning code to change certain land uses on the zoning map. The ordinance stemmed from discussion during seven monthly meetings of the Nome Planning Commission concerning requests from some residents to change parts of the 2008 law to generally favor business and economic development of certain areas. The Council notified adjacent property owners and held a public hearing on Sept. 25.
In other business, the Council unanimously passed a resolution backing an application for money from a state Dept. of Transportation TIGER grant program to pay for the Snake River moorage and vessel haul out facility at Port of Nome. The port has experienced an increase in vessel congestion over the past five years, which has caused vessel incidents and created delays in shipment of goods and services across the region. Additional moorage would increase shipping efficiencies seen as critical in the short season’s limited ice-free maritime window.
In a report to the Council, John K. Handeland, utility manager, informed that the NJUS Board of Directors had approved lowering the fuel surcharge by a penny a kilowatt, from 11.14 cents to 10.005 cents at their meeting on Oct. 5. For an account billed for 500 kilowatts’ usage per month, that comes to a saving of $5 a month or two or three pounds of potatoes at Nome prices.
The NJUS Board had also adopted the 2017 Water and Sewer Master Plan for the board and management to use to guide near term developments and upgrades to the system. The utility also needs the plan to submit in the search for funding opportunities that may become available to the community.
NJUS has drained the water line to the port causeway against freezing. Now would be a good time to turn on circulating pumps, Handeland said.
Handeland announced a power service interruption on the west side of town for a couple of hours beginning early Sunday morning.
“It’s nice to see a planned power outage,” Councilman Tobin quipped.
Andersen led the meeting from the mayor’s chair in the absence of Mayor Richard Beneville who was away on business.