The half-car that has sat on the side of HWY 56 in Edgerton for over 30 years will soon be moved. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
At the Apr. 26 meeting, Edgerton city council took action on two nuisance properties, considered ordinance approving rezoning at 207th and Waverly, the 2018 Street Maintenance Plan and approval of the 2017 audit of financial statements.
Code Violation Number 1
On Apr. 25, council held a Special Meeting for the purpose of a hearing with the property owner regarding a junked motor vehicle on private property, pursuant to Section 8-412 of the Edgerton Municipal Code.
The “junked motor vehicle” is the well known half-car that has sat by US Hwy 56 in Edgerton for around 30 years.
It sits on property once owned by Ray Braun, a former mayor who ran Braun’s service station there for most of his life. Braun died in 2012.
The current owner of the property is Danny O’Neal, who had planned to leave the car where it is, until council issued notice that it was in violation of code.
At a Special Meeting on Apr. 25, council voted 3-0 to direct the city attorney to draft a resolution to order removal of the half 1987 Chevrolet Citation.
The action riled up many of the longtime residents who consider the half-car something of an icon – one that memorializes Ray Braun. The story went viral and quickly spread across the nation and was picked up by news outlets as far away as Japan and the UK.
The resolution was prepared and inserted into the agenda at the April 26 scheduled council meeting.
City hall was filled with residents in opposition to removal of the half-car. Two metro TV stations had cameras and reporters at the meeting and broadcast pieces later that night.
Prior to opening public comments, Don Roberts, mayor, read a statement summarizing the issue. He said the city was responding to complaints received in January and February 2018.
“Those complaints were initiated by citizens in our community,” said Roberts.
City staff determined the half-car was, by definition, a violation of Sect. 8-403A of the city code and sent a courtesy letter to the property owner on Feb. 22.
The property owner requested a hearing, which was held at the Special Meeting on April 25.
Roberts said that council could sympathize with the attachment the community has to the car.
Roberts said he had his own sentimental attachment to the car because he was the one who physically cut the car in half and delivered it to Ray Braun.
“As an active participant in the creation of the half-car, I will never forget it. Ever. I am also very thankful to Ray Braun for his community leadership that has helped to shape this community. But I as mayor, along with the governing body members, took an oath to uphold the ordinances of the city of Edgerton,” stated Roberts.
Roberts added that in past citizens surveys, code enforcement had moved up to a higher priority concern expressed by citizens.
In opening public comments, Roberts said the three minute time limit would be strictly enforced and reminded the audience that public comments are an opportunity for citizen comment and not a question-answer session.
Seven people came to the podium to speak to council about the half-car.
Charlie Troutner, curator of the Edgerton Community Museum, said he had met with owner and he was willing to donate the car to the Edgerton Historical Society, with the hope that it would be placed on a concrete pad at either the museum or the city lake.
“There’s no doubt it’s a very historic landmark. I would like it deemed by the city of Edgerton, legally, as a historic landmark, and moved to, preferably the Edgerton Community Museum, at our cost and labor,” Troutner said.
Another speaker said she had started an online petition and had received over 2000 responses, including from people in Japan, Greece, Argentina, Chile and the UK.
After public comments, the city attorney gave another summary of the actions that had led up to this presentation and recommendation to adopt Resolution No. 04-26-18B, giving the owner ten days to remove the half-car.
Roberts said he believed council had an obligation to uphold the city codes now, even if it was unpopular, and if preferential treatment were given here, it could lead to requests for exception in other cases.
One of five council seats is currently vacant and Jody Brown was absent, the three council members present voted unanimously to adopt the resolution.
Code Violation number two
In August 2015, the owner of the property located at 502 E. 2nd Street, Mark A. Trammell, passed away. Currently the property taxes are delinquent, having last been paid in 2013 for the 2011 tax year. The property ownership has not changed hands since Jan. 31, 2018 it was reported by the city code enforcement officer that Trammell’s property contained multiple piles of yard waste, miscellaneous household furniture and automotive tires.
Notice of code violation was sent by certified mail to 502 E. 2nd Street on March 23, 2018, providing him or his estate, 10 days to correct the nuisance or request a hearing in front of the Governing Body as required by Edgerton City Code Section 8-205.
The conditions were not met and a hearing on the matter was not requested.
Council was presented with Resolution No. 04-26-18A. Staff recommended the Governing Body approve Resolution No. 04-26-18A to find the existence of the yard nuisances a violation of the City Code and providing for a deadline for Removal of Yard Nuisances.
Property owner must remove nuisances by May 7, 2018. Should this deadline not be met, approval of Resolution No. 04-26-18A authorizes the City of Edgerton, by its agent, to abate the conditions causing the violations and remove the nuisances from the property.
The resolution also allows for the city to abate the costs associated with the removal of said nuisances.
In discussion after item presentation, Roberts asked why the county hasn’t taken some action since the taxes haven’t been paid for over five years. Staff didn’t know.
“Perhaps Commissioner Brown can shed some light,” said Beth Linn, city administrator.
Council members had several questions concerning what exactly needs to be done and how it will be done if the property owner doesn’t do it.
Linn said it was very similar to the resolution council had passed earlier (about the half-car).
“This is giving the property owner the time frame, same time frame, to abate the nuisance. If they do not abate it, the city will contract out to do that and those costs associated with that will be billed back on their taxes,” Linn explained.
Until this action, the city did not have authority to enter the property to inspect it or clean it up.
“Today we do not have authorization to enter the property to inspect it. This is the tool by which, if they don’t abate it, then the city gains permission to enter the property,” said Linn.
Lee Hendricks, city attorney, advised council to file a lien on the property.
“As soon as we’re done here, that’s what I’d recommend doing. File a lien with the Registrar of Deeds immediately, put it on the property, so that if anything happens between now and the time that property is re-accessed there’s notice. And that’s the key here, notice,” Hendricks said.
Council approved Resolution No. 04-26-18A with a 3-0 vote.
Also at this meeting
• With a 3-0 vote, council approved rezoning of approximately 256 acres on the northwest corner of 207th and Waverly Road from RUR (Rural) to L-P (Logistics Park District). Application ZA-2018-03 for rezoning comes from NPD Management LLC represented by NorthPoint Development LLC.
• April Swartz, with Varney & Associates, presented a summary of the 2017 audit of financial statements to council. There were no findings, issues or adjustments suggested by the audit firm. “This is the only city that I work with that has this type of revenue coming in outside of the normal property tax and sales tax that support the government activities and we do larger cities like Emporia and Manhattan, so Edgerton is very unique,” said Swartz.
• During the city administrators report, Linn told council the three year contract with Varney & Associates was coming to an end. Staff recommended and council consensus agreed to renew with Varney & Associates rather than putting out Request For Proposals and taking bids.
• Trey Whitaker, public works superintendent reviewed the 2018 Street Maintenance Plan. In recent years, the city has applied overlay to approximately 50% of the residential streets in town. In 2018, the city will utilize a newer paving system called UBAS (Ultrathin Bonded Asphalt Surface) on some streets, and Mill and Overlay on others.