A meeting on Monday started as a Hillsboro Planning Commission session, included a 30-minute executive session for “security” reasons, then turned into a board of appeals hearing, and finally ended up with the granting of a one-year “temporary use permit” for a local rental property.
That permit is designed to allow the sale of a South High Street four-tenant rental home that, when it comes to zoning and water usage, is technically regarded as a single-family unit.
At issue was the status of a home in the 300 block of South High Street owned by local resident Margaret Van Frank, who has a contract to sell the home. But the sale was in limbo because the property is zoned as a single-family unit, in spite of the fact that it contains four apartment units.
Real estate agents representing the buyer came to the city with the concern that the property would be viewed as being sold through a non-conforming use, since it is part of a neighborhood under Zone A, which does not permit multi-unit facilities. Even if a variance was granted at some point in the past, the property would revert back to Zone A restrictions if sold, officials said.
Plus, the four units are served by just one water meter and line, and over the years the cost of water service for tenants has been included with the rent, with just one water bill paid to the city. That practice is contrary to Hillsboro city code, which specifies that in such cases each unit must be served by its own water line and meter.
Officials at Monday’s meeting agreed that there are numerous properties in Hillsboro being used as rentals which do not conform with local zoning laws or water and sewer regulations.
Present Monday were planning commission Chairman Buck Wilkin and members Kevin Barreras, Tom Eichinger, Ruth Robbins, Mayor Drew Hastings and Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin.
Shortly after Buck Wilkin called Monday’s meeting to order, he asked for a motion to go into executive session for “security” reasons. The board voted unanimously to do so, and when questioned by a reporter about how security played into Monday’s issues, both Buck Wilkin and Todd Wilkin replied by saying that “security” was the reason they were instructed to give by Fred Beery, the city law director.
Beery was not present at Monday’s meeting, but on Tuesday he said that while “security” may have been an “inartful” term, the executive session was held due to “pending or threatened litigation.” He said the rental unit issue is a carryover from past actions by previous administrations that “may not have done what they were supposed to do.”
Van Frank was present at Monday’s meeting along with her real estate agent, Donna Armstrong. Also present were real estate agents Kelly Kimble and Kaylin Preston, who are representing the buyer.
After commission members emerged from executive session, Buck Wilkin said the commission can actually serve a “dual role” as a board of appeal, and planning commission members agreed that they were at that point transitioning from a planning commission to an appeal board.
That development apparently relates to Hillsboro ordinance 155.063, which states. “A Board of Zoning Appeals is created and the powers and functions of the Board of Zoning Appeals are delegated to the City Planning Commission.”
Preston told the commission, or appeal board, that Van Frank has “an accepted contract,” but the buyer won’t take the property if it comes with the possibility of having to spend as much as $40,000 to redo water lines and install additional meters.
“That’s going to be insanity,” added Kimble.
Barreras said the commission has been working on transitioning various oddly zoned areas in the city and “trying to eliminate all the spot zoning.”
Eichinger said that under the law there was a “possibility to issue a temporary use permit” of one year that would allow the sale to happen, with the promise that the commission would work with city council to “evaluate and restructure the zoning” during the next 12 months.
Buck Wilkin said the commission intends to recommend that the city hire an outside company “to make our codes fit a small town in a modern world.”
“It’s not just a matter of rezoning,” said Buck Wilkin. “It’s examining the zoning rules.”
Todd Wilkin told Van Frank and the real estate agents, “We’re trying to help you continue with your sale.”
Hastings said that what the commission was contemplating would be a positive step and “is a big thing for Realtors.”
“I agree,” said Kimble, who seemed satisfied with the resolution offered by Eichinger to grant the one-year temporary use permit, which was agreed to unanimously by other commission members.
On Tuesday, Todd Wilkin said he was glad the meeting moved in the direction of resolving the specific issue in question, as well as the bigger picture of zoning incongruities in Hillsboro.
“We don’t want to set the precedent the wrong way, we want to do it the right way,” he said.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.