In response to a recent request from Eureka Springs Aldermen Lany Ballance and Karen Lindblad, the Planning Commission at its Sept. 11 meeting discussed council's request that Planning look into research on all privately owned structures encroaching on public property, past and future.
"I would like a list of all of them," Ballance had said at that earlier meeting. "It would also be helpful to know what encroachments will be happening in the future. Because they will happen, and people will come forward and the city will just give the property to them. It would be a very good idea to know how much public property is already being encroached upon."
Although Ballance expressed her confidence that Planning could accomplish this project "on a shoestring budget," Planning commissioners weren't so sure.
Planning Chairwoman Beverly Blankenship addressed the request. "I have talked to five or six people about this request this week, and here is how encroachments are typically handled. Historically, it's when somebody gets ready to buy or sell a property and it gets surveyed, that is usually the time problems like this are discovered. Occasionally the house isn't completely within its property boundaries, and possibly on city property. Typically it happens with the older structures done back when surveys weren't as accurate as they are today."
She then asked if anyone present could think of a reasonable way such a city-wide survey could be done regarding encroachment on city property. "I mean without it taking four or five years and costing $100,000," she said.
Commissioner Mickey Schneider interjected that according to her own research, such a project would cost more like $100,000 per year, not in total.
"I don't see what the goal would be at the end, when buying and selling a property usually brings it to council table for remedy anyway," Blankenship said. "I've been at the council table a lot of years and have only done half a dozen of these, so I don't know."
Long-time commissioner James Morris agreed. "What's the actual problem?" he asked. "If the city is being damaged, let's tackle that specific issue. On top of all else, there is such a thing as the 'law of adverse possession,' which says if somebody has cared for a property for a lot of years under the assumption it was their own, the courts are likely to give it to them anyway. City Council requesting this of us is a motion without legs. They offer no funding and no suggestion for how we would accomplish this. Unless they fund it and give us a timeline, it's a dead motion. Also, why would someone on City Council think it important for somebody else to do the research? We volunteer our time, but I fear we have become a council catch-all for members who don't want to do due diligence in their own responsibilities. Don't throw stuff like that out in the air. We don't have the funds. I don't want to spend all my evenings doing research. Maybe a couple hours a week, sure, but not this."
Commissioners also continued their efforts in revising city code in regard to outdoor sales. They compared two previous ordinances dealing with the subject, city ordinance 1020 and 1822, and matched those against actual code, noting numerous differences. Changes include a limitation of three outdoor sales per year based on address rather than individual name, a limitation of three consecutive days for each sale, a half day set-up and break-down period allowed on either end of the sale days, and a motion to send to City Council to ask them to choose between allowing outdoor sales to go from 7 a.m. -- 7 p.m. or from dawn till dusk.
All the suggestions will be incorporated and run back by Planning before being sent on to council.