SALISBURY – An extension of a moratorium was approved to provide city administration time to finalize procedures concerning non-conforming residences.
The Salisbury City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to extend a moratorium for 90 days that was established for certain enforcement actions in connection with multi-family residences in R-5, R-8, and R-10 zoning districts that are suspected of being used in an illegal non-conforming manner.
The resolution states that the Mayor and City Council recognize that a fundamental principle of zoning under Maryland law is to reduce non-conformance. During a work session on Dec. 5, the Mayor and Council discussed the status of changes to the city’s zoning code and to city procedures related to the enforcement of the zoning code in connection with illegal non-conforming uses. The council mutually agreed that the extension ·of a moratorium would provide time necessary for recommended training of the Board of Zoning Appeals members, preparation of legislation and for the required step of consideration by the Salisbury/Wicomico Planning and Zoning Commission of any changes to the city’s zoning code.
“This resolution has been requested by the council as a means to extend the moratorium that was enacted several months ago so that the city will not be taking enforcement actions in connection with multi-family residences in the R-5, R-8, and R-10 zoning districts while council is considering changes to the illegal non-conforming provisions primarily of the Board of Zoning Appeals legislation,” City Administrator John Pick explained.
Councilwoman Eugenie Shields said she hopes this is the last extension, and she is prepared to move the legislation forward even though she is going to vote against it.
“People are waiting for a decision one way or the other, and I hope that this will be the last moratorium that we do give to this resolution,” she said.
Council Vice President Deborah Campbell admitted that the process had been a lot more complicated than anticipated.
“I hope this will move back to the legislative table as a collaborative effort that will show what a good job we can all do together for the community and the neighborhoods in our city,” she said.
Council President Terry Cohen explained the council was initially reviewing the context of one bill and it has now moved to two or three. Also, amending zoning codes legislation must go through the Planning and Zoning Commission, which adds additional time.
“As we go through this, we are recognizing that in order to provide the fairest most responsive system possible and to be mindful of the burden that is placed on administration, as well as on the board itself, we take certain things into consideration,” she said. “One of those items dealt with training, and the administration is currently following up, and the length of time allowed by another moratorium will enable administration to work with the board to make sure they have what they need in making their decisions.”
The moratorium was passed in mid- September. At that time, Pick explained the ordinance was first introduced last summer through Mayor Jim Ireton’s Safe Streets Legislative Package, and that increased evidence standards are necessary in cases brought before the Board of Zoning Appeals having to do with non-conforming conversions.
The ordinance states, “the Mayor and City Council are concerned that a shortage of safe, code compliant, low and moderate income housing exists in the City of Salisbury and that the past conversions of single-family residences to multi-family residential use provide unsafe and non-code compliant dwelling units in the city, which pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens.”