Expanding the Culpeper town maintenance code needs more study

Possible expansion of the Town of Culpeperâ??s Maintenance Code needs more study, according to members of the Public Safety and Public Works Committee, who met Tuesday afternoon.
The four-member council committee had concerns about costs associated with expansion and just how far the town wanted to go enforcing the proposed section of the maintenance code that would cover both exterior and interior violations.

The proposed expansion did not cover the residential inspection program, according to town Planning Director Patrick Mulhern.

â??Take it a bite at a time, if you would,â? he told the committee about why that portion was left out.

In 2013, the town council adopted the unsafe structures and structures unfit for human habitation portions of the code along with the appeals process.

The latest proposal had council questioning the $10,000 immediate additional cost, with the added increase of hiring additional personnel if the town aggressively enforced the code. The town staff recommended that the town only respond to complaints and â??attempt to repair the worst violations in town using current staff.â?

The costs had committee Chairman Jon Russell asking that the finance committee look at the matter before coming back to his committee and before the town council takes up the ordinance at its Feb. 10 meeting. He also expressed concern that the town wasnâ??t enforcing the existing ordinance without adding duties to town staff.

Interim Town Manager Chris Hively told the committee that he thought the expansion â??would grow into more than $10,000.â?

Gary Cole, the townâ??s zoning inspector, showed photos of homes that would fall under the expanded ordinance. He explained what violations were depicted in each photo.

Councilman Bobby Ryan asked how Cole inspected property.

Cole said he had to be invited on the property by the tenant or property owner.

â??I know for a fact that someone has trespassed on my property,â? said Ryan, who offered no other information about his claim.

With discussion centering on the first reading of the ordinance next month, Councilman Pranas Rimeikis wanted the council to slow down.

â??I donâ??t think we are ready for that,â? said Rimeikis.

He explained that work to renovate his house could be looked at as a violation. He said he has been working to restore his house for 23 years. Work to fix his porch took four years as one issue lead to another and then another, all requiring repair.

The committee discussed discretion if the ordinance was passed.

â??You canâ??t legislate discretion,â? said Rimeikis.

Ryan in the past has opposed adoption of the maintenance code pertaining to exterior enforcement. Once again, he voiced his concerns about senior citizens having insufficient funds to maintain their homes to meet the proposed code.

â??I have an issue with that,â? said Ryan

Councilman Keith Price, who provided some of the photos shown the committee, thought that the ordinance might be less intrusive if issues that could be seen from the street were considered.
Rimeikis countered that the ordinance should be less concerned with aesthetics and more concerned with safety issues.

â??I donâ??t think we are ready to go anywhere with this,â? said Rimeikis.

Russell suggested an â??open houseâ? where interested citizens and stakeholders would have an opportunity to ask questions and provide input.

It appears unlikely that the proposed maintenance code expansion will be considered by the full council for some time until all the issues â?? cost and enforcement â?? are resolved.

PVC pipe promoter

Also on the agenda was a resolution in the form of a report and recommendation referred by Councilman Russell for the committee to consider â??open and fair completion for water and wastewater projects.â? The resolution would ensure that â??all proven and acceptable piping materials be included in all bids for water and wastewater utility service improvement projects,â? according to the report and recommendation.

Russell wanted the committee to pass the resolution to the full council that would allow the use of PVC pipe in lieu of ductile iron pipes for the distribution of drinking water. Russell said using the plastic pipe could produce a significant cost savings.

Representatives of Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association provided an overview of the use of PVC piping and open competition at the committeeâ??s Oct. 28, 2014 meeting.

Russell said that the town staff â??seems reluctantâ? to allow the use of PVC pipe.

â??Itâ??s an opportunity to save us some money,â? said Russell.

Hively said the town used PVC pipe only for the new wells and treatment facility along Chandler Street. He noted that most of the townâ??s infrastructure is built out using ductile pipe.

Hively said any new construction would be done by developers, with the town taking over maintenance once the infrastructure was done. He said mixing and matching material could prove problematic when it came to repairs.

â??Staff is recommending using ductile pipe,â? said Hively.

The town manager also noted that while there may be initial cost savings, PVC pipe has higher maintenance costs. Also, he noted that ductile pipe is more suitable for terrain and composition of the ground than PVC pipe.

Rimeikis said he saw no reason for the resolution and also noted it was not binding.

â??I am inclined to go with the town manager,â? said Ryan.

Price asked about the appropriateness of using PVC pipe.

â??We can look at it and evaluate it,â? said Hively.

Russell didnâ??t push the issue to a vote.

â??I can be patient and bring it back later,â? he said.

Signs not selling?

In another matter, the committee talked about the significant number of real estate development signs that pop up on Saturday and disappear Sunday night.

Price wanted to know if the signs were permissible.

â??Those are billboard signs,â? said Zoning Administrator Maxie Brown. â??They are not permitted.â?

Many of the signs also sit in the public right-of-way and not on private property.

Lack of enforcement hinged on no personnel working weekends to enforce the existing town ordinance.

â??Would it be cost prohibitive to send a couple of guys out for a couple of hours?â? asked Price.

Russell said he didnâ??t like the townâ??s ordinance, noting that developers were just trying to make money selling lots or homes.

â??Itâ??s a simple thing of enforcing the ordinance,â? said Rimeikis. â??I donâ??t see anything wrong with the ordinance.â?

Russell said he would like for council to discuss the ordinance in the future.

A representative from Ryan Homes, a development company responsible for some of the signs, agreed that the signs were detrimental but wanted to work with the town to find a way to provide directional signs to its various developments.

Mulhern, the townâ??s planning director, promised to meet with the developers in the future.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at