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Canton Planning Board considers building maintenance ordinance

fr cantonbuildingsBy Katie Reeder • SMN Intern 

The Canton Planning Board is considering a building maintenance ordinance that would regulate downtown commercial properties and hold owners to certain standards.

Some of the standards include ensuring the building’s exterior is painted and kept in good repair, making sure the roof is structurally sound and keeping the electrical work and plumbing in “good working order,” according to the ordinance.

Mayor Mike Ray and the Canton Board of Alderman hope the measure would revitalize the town and address any health and safety concerns vacant or deteriorating buildings may pose. 

“This deals with safety. This deals with the welfare of property owners and the community as a whole,” said Jason Burrell, assistant town manager at the planning board’s June 9 meeting.

Owners with a vacant commercial property must register it with the town. The registration fee is $50 and must be renewed annually. Owners must also keep the property secure so that it is not accessible to unauthorized persons. To board up the building, owners must first receive a boarding-up permit, which will cost $50. 

Property owners who fail to comply with the ordinance will be issued a civil penalty citation. 

Many members of the Planning Board agreed with the regulations. The most contentious issue was the proposed $500 fine for property owners who don’t to begin or complete a plan to address the necessary repairs. 

Under the proposed system, property owners not in line with the new standards will be issued a notice of violation. At a hearing with the code enforcement officer or the town manager, they will go over a plan of corrective action. The plan must include the work to be done, who will do it and the schedule for it to be completed. 

If owners fail to begin the plan of corrective action within 30 days of its approval, they would owe a $500 fine and then $500 for each additional day they failed to comply. 

Ray questioned whether the steep fine was necessary, as it would add up to $15,000 in one month. Some members of the Planning Board expressed concern over this amount as well. 

“Five hundred dollars is a lot if you’re a business trying to succeed in today’s world,” Bill Sutton said. 

Town Manger Seth Hendler-Voss said the heavy fine was to ensure that the difficult step of actually writing the check and beginning the repairs happened. 

“We felt like it was important — and that you all felt it was important — to be very stiff with that penalty,” Hendler-Voss said. “Otherwise that first step would never be taken, and that’s the step that counts the most.” 

He added that time for the property owner to get a loan would be part of the plan of corrective action. He said the town would accommodate people who are committed to carrying the plan out. 

Chris May, owner of May Motors, attended the meeting and advocated for a stiff penalty because he believes the town’s overall appearance can only be improved if all commercial property owners are willing to do the necessary work.  

“I can spend all the money in the world or whatever my pocketbook will fall out and let me do,” he said. “But until my neighbors see value in it, I’m throwing my money in the river out here because it has to be from one end to the other as far as the work.” 

The Planning Board voted to amend the ordinance so that those who failed to begin to plan would be fined an initial $500. If they still do not comply within 14 days, then the $500-per-day fine will be implemented. 

Other proposed penalties will fine owners $50 for violations such as failure to register their properties, meet the security requirements or submit a plan of corrective action after they’ve been issued a notice of violation. 

There will be a public hearing for community members to voice their opinions about the proposed ordinance at 6:30 p.m. on July 9.

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