County taking the right steps to make sure all structures being used as housing are safe, humane

 

Oct. 26, 2017

 

In recent years, several cities in the county have shown a heightened awareness of making sure housing is safe, clean and humane. We’ve also seen some interest, although not yet enough, in cleaning up eyesores.

To give a few examples, Manti created the position of Zoning-Animal-Nuisance (ZAN) officer. Ephraim conducted inspections of trailer courts and forced one court to correct life safety hazards in its utility systems. Gunnison purchased a blighted commercial property on Main Street, paid to have the buildings torn down, and is now offering the lot for sale.

Mt. Pleasant and Spring City have both upgraded their nuisance ordinances and ordinance enforcement.

Now it’s gratifying to see Sanpete County developing ordinances to stop people from getting around building-code requirements by claiming structures being lived in are agricultural outbuildings.

While we don’t know of specific incidents, without a tight definition of what kind of structure can be used for housing, there is the potential of barns, storage buildings and turkey sheds being converted into housing for immigrant farm workers.

The county zoning administrator is trying to establish that if a structure is going to be used for housing, it has to meet all building codes and zoning requirements. That includes adequate land around the structure, road access, power, water and sewage disposal.

It doesn’t matter if the human occupancy is just a few weeks per year. we can’t permit unsafe housing because the site is “recreational” property and structure is or is tantamount to a “cabin.” Housing is housing, and it needs to meet code.

In accordance with existing ordinances, a fifth wheel or RV trailer needs to be used for time-limited camping, not as a permanent dwelling. After the legal camping time expires, the unit needs to be vacated and/or moved.

We live in a beautiful valley. But county government has not begun to address rural blight from abandoned turkey sheds, barns that are falling down, rusted equipment and junk cars that are strewn over hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of unincorporated land. One of the reasons for the blight is that owners know they can get away with the mess.

The zoning administrator, and the Sanpete County Planning and Zoning Commission, are taking the first step to changing things by developing ordinances to address improper behavior. The next step is for the county commission to adopt the ordinances. After that comes the challenge of figuring out how to finance enforcement.

Taking such steps is not infriging on anybody’s rights. It’s protecting the human rights of everybody to live in safe, decent quarters, as well as our rights as a community to enjoy the beauty of our county free of irresponsible eyesores.