By Matt Masters
The Wilson County Planning and Zoning Committee discussed and ultimately deferred a solution for dilapidated structures at its Thursday meeting.
But the deferment wasn’t made without any progress on the issue. Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto spoke to the committee about his efforts, done as a private citizen, to help alleviate the situation for specific lots that have been of concern to several vocal citizens.
Hutto told the committee he was in talks with several property owners about what they need to help get their lots to a safe and presentable state. Hutto also said he talked with a contractor who agreed to take down some structures for one of the property owners at the contractor’s cost. The property owner was then contacted about a possible buyer for the land, so the three people are working on a solution. The contractor reportedly came to an agreement that if they take the structures down at their cost and the property owner then sold the property within five years, the contractor would be reimbursed for the cost.
Some of the properties in question are on Trousdale Ferry Pike, where Hutto attempted to reach out to the property owner of three dilapidated structures that sit a row, but he wasn’t able to reach the owner directly. However, one of the property owners who Hutto spoke with spoke with the other owner and voiced interest to meet with Hutto.
Hutto reminded the committee his actions were one of an individual trying to help residents come to an agreement, one that does not involve county government. Hutto said it is up to the committee to decide to draft a resolution on the issue if they feel it’s needed and could secure enough votes from the Wilson County Commission for it to be approved.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been doing over the last several months,” Hutto said. “I’ve met with that group on two or three different occasions, just keeping them up to date, and I’ve kind of kept it away from us and the commissioners just because I don’t want you to get confused with what I’m doing and what you guys are doing. So if you guys need a resolution or want a resolution, hey, that’s up to you guys.”
The committee discussed the challenges to enforce action such as knowledge of the scale of the task ahead and how much it would cost. Commissioner Annette Stafford, who championed action on the issue, asked Tom Brashear, director of development services, about the ability of the county government to currently address the complaints. Brashear said current zoning ordinances do not apply to dilapidated structures.
“Can I ask – Tom, do you think that we’ve got with the ordinance that we have now, do you think that that’s enough teeth to give you something?” Stafford said.
Brashear said, “Not with dilapidated structures, no ma’am. In fact, the state is very specific about how a county must go about that in the code annotated, and this resolution that I’ve put before you is pretty specific to what the state code requires, which it gives a protocol for the notice and what has to be in the notice. There has to be a cost estimate for what we think it’s going to cost to either make repairs or demolish, and then we have to give the person the opportunity to respond to us to how they’re going to repair. And if they don’t then we kind of treat it similar to how we have our zoning violations where we send them another notice, send them another notice, and then we take it to the court system.”
Commissioner Kenny Reich said he supported tackling the issue but not in favor of action that is going to use up a lot of county money or resources, something echoed throughout the meeting as no one knows how many properties and structures would meet requirements for county action or how much that could potentially cost to act on them.
“I’m fully in favor of doing something on dilapidated structures, giving [Brashear] the tools you need to make people correct their properties, but I’m not in favor of the county establishing a fund and us going out and tearing them down,” Reich said.
Brashear said ultimately the state was clear the end goal would be to go in and tear the properties in question down if the committee chose to go that route, something the committee could not come to an agreement.
The committee ultimately deferred the issue for 30 days at the recommendation of committee chair Commissioner Jerry McFarland to see if some of the specific structures outlined by Hutto are settled as is planned by some of the parties.
The questions of how big the problem is and how much will it cost remained as the meeting closed with not enough support on any official widespread action on dilapidated structures.
The committee also addressed the need to discuss on noise complaints during its first meeting in 2019.