Exmore Strengthens Vehicle, Nuisance, and Trash Ordinances

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Exmore Town Council unanimously passed several ordinances and other measures Monday night to advance the town’s business interests and promote public health, safety, and welfare.

Exmore police officer Chip Little, who is in charge of ensuring town residents keep their properties free of trash, debris, and other public nuisances, presented changes he made to two existing ordinances, which were approved by the Town Council.

Inoperative Vehicles

Ordinance 212 originally was implemented to prohibit inoperative motor vehicles, trailers, or semi-trailers from being kept on property in town unless they are in a fully enclosed structure.

A vehicle is subject to the ordinance if it meets one of three conditions: it is inoperable; it has been partially or completely disassembled, with tires, wheels, engine, or other essential parts removed for 60 days or longer; it displays neither valid license plates nor a valid inspection sticker. 

The ordinance as written was unenforceable, Little said, since it did not include any criminal or civil penalties for violators.

Little added language to the ordinance making a violation a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. 

The additional language also allows the town to impose a civil penalty for each offense. Every 24-hour period in which the problem is not corrected is considered a separate offense. That is, if the civil penalty is a fine of $100, the town may charge the offender $100 for every day the inoperative vehicle remains on the property.

A person in violation of the ordinance will receive a notice by certified or registered mail giving the property owner 30 days to correct the issue and avoid penalties. Little added language to the ordinance permitting the notice to be delivered in person.

If the property owner does not remove the inoperative vehicle within 30 days, the town may remove and dispose the vehicle. The property owner may redeem the vehicle before disposal by paying the town’s costs to move and store the vehicle.

The town may place a lien against the property until the charges are paid. Little added language to the ordinance permitting the Northampton County General District Court to order abatement and reimbursement to the town.

The new ordinance will be assigned a new number and supersede ordinance 212.

Public Nuisances

Little also contributed to ordinance 217, which will supersede ordinance 168 on public nuisances. The ordinance now includes a civil penalty of $100 for each offense of failing to remove a public nuisance, including publicly visible dirt and filth, garbage, junk, trash, rubbish, and waste, all of which are defined within the ordinance.

Trash Pickup

Ordinance 219, establishing water and sewer rates and trash fees, was updated with new trash pickup rates which have increased $1 per trash can. Customers will now pay $16 for limb and brush service and trash pickup from one trash can of at least 95-gallon capacity. The cost of trash removal for each additional trash can is $10.

Sewer Connections

Only one citizen spoke during the public hearing on ordinance 147, which will be updated to add a requirement for homes to connect to Exmore’s new sewer system if the pipes run past the homes.

Town Manager Robert Duer noted that Exmore can opt out of running sewer lines to certain homes if it would be cost-prohibitive. 

“So … if it’s going to cost us $100,000 or $200,000 or $300,000 to get a pipe to John Doe’s house, we have the option not to run it there. But if we do run it there, John Doe’s got to hook up to it,” he said.

Director of Utilities Taylor Dukes explained the addition to ordinance 147 is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which are contributing funding to the sewer project.

He and Duer noted the requirement also applies to a homeowner who has a functioning septic system or is considering installing a new above-ground septic system.

The Town Council is expected to vote on the changes to ordinance 147 at its next meeting.

Dukes added that Exmore is pursuing additional federal funding for the sewer project, $3 million through the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and $3 million through the office of Congresswoman Elaine Luria.

The town currently is about a month ahead of schedule with the sewer project, which may be ready to go to bid by late June instead of sometime in July or August, Dukes said.

Duer remarked, “We need to know what the cost is going to be before we pull the plug or fill the tub up.”

Employment Project Area

Dukes explained DHCD also is requiring Exmore to establish a Section 3 Business and Employment Project Area to receive the $1 million Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the town was awarded.

The project area name is a reference to Section 3 of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Act, which concerns providing jobs to low- and very-low income people in areas with ongoing HUD-funded construction projects.

HUD funds the Community Development Block Grant program that is administered by DHCD.

The Town Council passed a motion to establish the business and employment project area.

Budget

Exmore’s fiscal year 2023 budget of more than $2.1 million was passed and the budget is balanced. The majority of the town’s revenues are generated through water, sewer, and trash pickup service, and the majority of expenditures are the maintenance of those services, public works, public safety, and general government.

Sale of Town Property

The new owners of a home on Carolyn Avenue offered to buy the land next-door, which is the property of Exmore. The Town Council voted unanimously in favor of accepting closed bids for the sale of the land, which is comprised of two lots. Duer noted the town previously had tried to sell the property, but the prospective buyer did not follow through.

Police Report

Police Chief Angelo DiMartino said speeding in Exmore is a worsening problem, with 93 summonses issued in April, of which 30 were reckless driving violations, as the driver was traveling 20 mph or more over the speed limit.

DiMartino noted many drivers are being stopped for traveling more than 70 or 80 mph in the 45 mph zone. 

For example, Sgt. Jonathan Gonzalez stopped a Pennsylvania man who was driving 89 mph in the 45 mph zone. Duer said the driver, a police lieutenant, asked Gonzalez not to issue a summons but give him a “professional courtesy.” DiMartino said the driver called him to complain after Gonzalez refused the driver’s request and told him he was going “too fast … I’m sorry.”

Duer said Exmore possibly could acquire traffic-light cameras that automatically photograph a vehicle’s license plate when a driver runs a red light, enabling a town employee to bill the driver for the civil penalty through the mail.

“If people know cameras are up, they might slow down a little bit,” he said.

Six kids who caused about $600 worth of damage to lights in the town park were caught on camera and will be disciplined through the juvenile justice system, DiMartino said.

Duer said kids have been “running ramshod” through the park; for example, five minutes after the restroom has been cleaned, it’s been trashed again.

He was concerned that if the situation continues to worsen, the town may need at least a part-time attendant at the park.

“I’d love to have a place for children to play, but we don’t need a place for children to tear up,” Duer said.

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