Letter to the Editor: Concerned Citizens speak out
As concerned citizens of Orangeville, we have seen a need to become more involved in our city government and advocate for changes in policies and regulations that unreasonably limit the uses of our properties. We are also concerned that policies and regulations are manipulated to this same end. Our city ordinances should be written and interpreted to allow us the maximum use and benefit from our property, not limit our use. Our zoning administrator has admitted on numerous occasions that, "Our policies are more restrictive than Salt Lake City's policies." Several citizens have researched specific policies ranging from dogs to property issues and have found no other cities as restrictive as Orangeville.
We have attended planning and zoning and city councils meeting the last few months. We are hearing that our city government is considering having a deputy attend our city council meetings. After witnessing how the citizens are treated, we feel that this might be a good idea. As citizens of Orangeville we are considering making this request ourselves. We want our constitutional rights and freedoms of speech protected. We do not want to be interrupted or threatened with the sheriff if we are saying something the mayor does not want to hear.
One citizen who attended planning and zoning was having problems getting on the agenda. This citizen had made this request the previous two months and was not put on the agenda. This same citizen, whose project had been "red-tagged" had been told to go to planning and zoning at the request of the zoning administrator. At the following planning and zoning meeting the zoning administrator advised the commission that this citizen needed a letter. The administrator explained that because the citizen was in violation, he could no longer come to the planning and zoning commission but would be required to go to the board of adjustments. The letter would also inform the citizen that he could appeal this decision within 30 days. This citizen was being denied a chance to be heard by either of the boards mentioned above in the decision making process. This citizen had been threatened with a fine based on a policy that has not yet received the approval of the city council or the zoning commission. This citizen had requested a copy of the code he was violating and has not been able to get a copy. This citizen with the support of others has attended city meetings to advocate for himself. This prompted Orangeville City to check into the situation while at a training with the League of Cities and Towns. It appears that the citizen will be able to keep his porch.
Other citizens who are being taken to court by Orangeville City have experienced similar difficulties. While waiting to receive a decision from the zoning commission, they were asked to attend the board of adjustments meeting. The citizens had not received information they had requested or any feedback from the commission. Without being able to attend the board of adjustments, or being given a chance to appeal they were threatened with court. They are hoping a hearing or other resolution comes in the near future.
There is a citizen who is advocating for the two feet on the property owners side of the sidewalk to be deeded back to the property owners. This citizen was instructed to have a petition signed to work towards this change. Almost 400 citizens of Orangeville have signed this petition. At the last planning and zoning commission there was some discussion about the recommendation that would be made to the city council. Although many signed the petition, the recommendations the commission wanted to make to the council would require property owners to request the two feet individually. There was also discussion among a couple of the members of the commission on who would be able to attend the city council meeting where the citizen advised them he would follow up on his petition. Why was this person advised to get a petition going if the changes that were being proposed were till going to be on an individual basis? There was little discussion on this decision at this meeting. Almost 400 citizens signed this petition and have to pursue this change individually. Why didn't they address his concern as an individual in the first place? At city council meeting, there was no one from planning and zoning in attendance and the mayor advised him that they had not received a recommendation and it would have to wait until October. This comment was made with no apology or regard to the time and effort that this citizen ha put into the things the city was requiring him to do to pursue this change. This citizen was very disappointed and frustrated after almost five months of following all the recommendations and getting the petition they requested.
One voice may easily be dismissed. Can so many citizens voices go unheard? Do we as citizens have the right to the scheduled time given us even through our views might not be what our mayor wants to hear? Are we allowed to speak without rude interruptions and orders to "sit our butt down?" The citizen demanded that he have the right to speak for his remaining time while orders from the mayor continued. The mayor then threatened to call the sheriff and have the citizen removed. Though the citizen was very upset about the treatment he was receiving and persisted to argue his case, he was not demonstrating behavior that would merit the threat of having the sheriff called. This citizen had earned the right to be heard by this city council and he had the right to disapprove of the way the city government was treating his situation. Citizens who signed the petition need to attend the next city council meeting and get on the agenda if they want to speak.
Our previous mayor spoke at the last city council meeting against the petition claiming that the "old timers" were not the ones signing it. He advised the newcomers, "If they did not like it here, to go back where they came from." There were at least seven fairly new citizens attending this meeting. Are the new citizens, with different ideas and needs, not welcome in Orangeville?
Another citizen in Orangeville was told they had to move a carport to meet zoning regulations and was given information that contradicted everything the building inspector had said. This citizen was told her carport was an accessory building and it had to be moved to meet the 40 foot setback requirement. In a recent planning and zoning meeting the zoning administrator reported that this citizen had been denied a building permit due to several issues with the building inspector. Several citizens at this meeting were surprised to hear this incorrect information. Citizens contacted the building inspector who was going to come to a city council meeting to clear things up. The building inspector was on the agenda, but did not attend at the mayor's request. Several citizens were at this meeting to communicate with the building inspector with concerns over this and other issues.
Citizens of Orangeville are concerned about our ability to advocate for ourselves and bring any concerns we have before the mayor, city council, planning and zoning, or board of adjustments. There are strict limits on our ability to talk or have any open discussion at any of our city meetings. We have just recently been allowed in city council to make a comment without being on the agenda. We are allowed five minutes, and we can comment, but not be given a response. This limits our ability as citizens to even ask questions. If we are not on the agenda we are not allowed to make any comments or ask questions. As citizens become more involved, the restrictions are increasing to the point that we are going to have to write letters to communicate. We have only been actively involved in attending city meetings for a few months. In this time, we have demonstrated respect and courtesy. We feel we have no voice. Many citizens in Orangeville feel we are not respected by our city government. We are not being treated with fairness, decency and respect. Our city government has been elected by the citizens and should represent the citizens.
As citizens of Orangeville, we want to have our individual issues heard. We want to be given requested information when we ask for it. We want access to public records in a timely manner. We want all of the people in Orangeville to be accepted as citizens of Orangeville even if we are new. We feel there is discrimination with the interpretation of ordinances and codes depending on who the individual is. We want to be individuals, not just policies and codes. We want variances and special exceptions. We would like to be able to communicate with our building inspector so requirements and information are not kept from us.
Because we are becoming involved and advocating for others and showing an interest in making positive changes in our city, we are being viewed as trouble makers by city officials. There are issues that we are bringing to their attention, but we are not the antecedent to problems in Orangeville, we are just the result. We would like to encourage citizens to become involved with city issues by attending meetings and requesting to view the public minutes and other records that should be available to us. Many, many citizens in Orangeville have voiced concerns about Orangeville City codes or government. We would encourage everyone to attend your city council and other meetings to advocate for positive change.