Today’s review of the November Commission meeting is by Carol Ross.
By far the most important and time consuming item on the agenda was the adoption of the new Stormwater regulations. Section 11 grants the Stormwater Department the ability to enter any property at any reasonable hour to check for regulation infractions. Only an anonymous call is necessary for this “visit” to occur.
Many commissioners were concerned that they were told that this applied only to construction, but Section 11 was not limited only to construction sites and construction regulations. Commissioner Lail moved for a 24 hour, documented notice to the property owner before the “visit” occurred. Stormwater head Justin Teague held that if he did this, then the property owner might clean up the infraction before his arrival. This proposed change did not pass with a vote of 10 Yes, 8 No, with one abstaining.
Some questions that should have been asked, but weren’t. 1) What is the purpose of these regulations? If they are to prevent stream pollution and can be achieved with a phone call, where’s the problem? Mr Teague’s response makes the purpose of his department appear to be simply a chance to grab a fine from an unsuspecting property owner. 2) What procedures are in place, if any, to prevent crank anonymous calls? What actions will be taken if a crank call is made? 3) Do property owners not have the right to face the accuser especially if the accusation is FALSE? 4) Define the word reasonable. 5) Is it considered trespassing if the property is posted and no one is home to give permission to enter?
Commissioner Burkhalter then moved to strike Section 11. After some discussion, this motion passed with an 11 Yes, 8 No vote.
Section 4 then received attention. Commissioner Burkhalter moved to eliminate paragraph 1 in Section 4 and revise paragraph 2. This revision passed with 15 Yes, 4 No.
After some more discussion, Commissioner Farmer moved to reconsider the motion to strike Section 11, saying that if TDEC (Tennessee Department for Environment and Conservation) required this, then Blount County could be fined. This motion passed. Following the vote, Commissioner Farmer asked Mr. Teague to check with TDEC regarding Section 11, and to let the commission know if it was required.
Commissioner Wright asked if the county could have an extension. Although Mr Teague replied “We can try,” no action was taken to do this.
In the end, the commission voted to approve these regulations with the change to Section 4 and the inclusion of Section 11.
Not discussed, but should have been was the “up to $3000” fine that can be levied for each infraction on every day that the infraction occurs. Although this is within the limits set by TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated) it could very well have been lowered by the commission.
Commissioner Burkhalter at one point expressed extreme displeasure with Mr. Teague for waiting until the commission had only 60 days to consider this before presenting it.
Editors Comment: In 2009, I brought it to the Commission’s attention about the ridiculous 1/10th of an acre and it was changed to 1 acre and the area covered by the regulations was also decreased. However, the absurb up to $5,000 a day fine for grass clippings, leaves and dirt needs to be addressed. This is what happens when dummies are elected to the Commission and then don’t read stuff and dummies are appointed to positions of power (Stormwater Cordinator). Garbage like this is shoved through at the last minute because most Commissioners are too lazy to do their homework ahead of time and come prepared with the knowledge needed to revise these stupid regulations written by power hungry dummies that don’t have a clue what they are doing.