Hearings set for new rules on guns, advertising, tickets

Sep. 27, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

Public hearings will be held next month on proposals in Lenoir that could let some people shoot nuisance animals, would set advertising restrictions that would block another "Frosty the snowman" controversy, and would greatly increase late payments for parking tickets.

The proposal to allow residents to apply for a permit to shoot nuisance animals earlier had prompted city council members to express worries about public safety. But Police Chief Scott Brown said at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Thursday that the process outline in the proposal is unlikely to result in many permits being issued. In his 26 years with Lenoir Police Department, he said, he could think of only one time when the circumstances would have prompted him to issue this type of permit.

Brown proposed the permit process because of a report about a coyote attacking livestock. Currently, only law enforcement officers are allowed to discharge of firearms within city limits.

A public hearing on the proposal is set for Oct. 15.

Proposed changes to the sign ordinance stemmed from last winter's dispute between the city and a man selling Christmas trees who erected a very large, inflatable snowman on his lot to attract attention. The proposal, which will be up for a public hearing this coming Tuesday, Oct. 1, would change the definition and parameters of temporary advertising devices, limiting them to no more than 20 feet tall and on display for no more than 30 days at a time.

A change added by the planning board on Monday would not apply the new restrictions to special events such as the annual Bridge Incredible Challenge Bike Ride, the Blackberry Festival and the Sculpture Festival, or to holiday light displays that are not part of commercial advertising.

Changes to increase penalties for late payments of parking tickets, intended to give the city leverage to collect overdue fines, will be presented for a public hearing and action by the city council Oct. 15.

Currently the city can issue a $5 parking ticket for an infraction, with no schedule to increase that amount and no procedure to collect overdue fines, stating that overdue parking fines will eventually be forgiven.

The proposal calls for increasing the amount of the fine the longer that it has not been paid. Once the overdue fine gets to $50, it will be eligible for collection through the N.C. Debt Setoff Clearinghouse, a private entity that partners with the North Carolina League of Municipalities and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners to retrieve outstanding debt from debtors’ state income tax refunds.

But one change that has been made would not increase the fine as quickly as the original proposal. The $5 fine would double after 15 days instead of three; it would not go to $25 until after 30 days instead of 15; and it would not increase to $50 until after 60 days, where the original proposal hit that amount after just 30 days.