BY KENDYL HOLLINGSWORTH
Weed abatements were a main topic at the Opelika City Council meeting July 5.
The council held three public hearings at the meeting, all related to weed abatement assessments: one for a parcel of land at 100 Ave. C, one at Avenue C and another at 200 Ave. C.
William Key (Bill), who owns property near the land in question at 100 Ave. C, raised concerns about two of the abatements during the first public hearing.
“I was leaving Bay Court and driving down Avenue C when I saw an interesting piece of equipment clearing some property,” Key told the council. “I stopped to talk to the gentleman, and imagine my surprise when I found out that these woods that he was clearing, he was clearing under a weed abatement. I’m not sure how that occurred.”
The ordinance pertaining to weed abatements states that it does not apply to heavily wooded areas in their natural state which are undeveloped.
Key also read a letter to the council from his daughter, Emily, who was unable to attend the meeting in person. In the letter, she shared her concerns about the need for weed abatements at 100 Ave. C and Avenue C, the subjects of the first two scheduled hearings. She also noted that the addresses are listed differently in the Alabama Global Information Systems and the Lee County Delta Computer System.
“Also, the property was heavily wooded before being cleared by heavy machinery with a mulcher,” Bill read from the letter. “I firmly believe that this corner of Second Street and Avenue C should not have been cleared. It was not overridden with weeds. It was a well-established habitat/forest. The addresses on file for citizens to find are 0 S. 2nd St. and 0 Willow St. I own the adjoining property and am concerned this will be a precedent for future decisions.”
Emily said in the letter that the addresses listed in the computer systems indicate undeveloped land.
She also called for the council to table the weed abatement assessments “to give us all more time to make sure we are doing what is best for Opelika.”
Ward 3 Council Member Tim Aja asked how the properties were chosen for weed abatement.
In response, City Administrator Joey Motley said the city followed the same process for these weed abatements as others before it. That process includes research on the property to make sure it has been developed before and reaching out to property owners to ask them to take care of overgrowth, among other steps.
“The proper notices were sent to the property owners like all other weed abatements,” Motley said. “Every step was followed. We got the green cards back, signed by the recipients, and so everything was followed just like we do all others.”
Motley said no large trees were cut in the abatement, and costs are figured based on the square footage of the project and type of work required.
Both Aja and Ward 2 Council Member Erica Baker-Norris called for more documentation, including photos, receipts and copies of citizen complaints.
Ward 5 Council Member Todd Rauch said he is in favor of the abatement.
“If you have property that used to have houses on it, then it’s hard to maintain that property,” he explained. “It just causes a lot of unnecessary hassle for existing or adjacent property owners. We need to do better with this, and I appreciate this comment.”
Aja said he was fine with the abatement at 200 Ave. C because it was more apparent that a structure once existed there, but he feels “like we’re dangerously setting a precedent of clearing land and charging somebody for it without actually having true documentation.”
Rauch, along with Ward 1 Council Member George Allen and Ward 4 Council President Eddie Smith, voted in favor of the abatement at 100 Ave. C. while Aja and Baker-Norris voted against it.
In the following two hearings, Aja voted “nay” for the abatement at Avenue C, and Baker-Norris voted “nay” for the abatement at 200 Ave. C.
The council awarded bids to the following five entities:
• Top Notch Cleaning Inc. in the amount of $8,590 per month for the first three years for custodial services at the Opelika SportsPlex
• Point Broadband in the amount of $97,200 for fiber connection to Aubix Datacenter
• WOW in the amount of $86,400 for fiber internet connection to Aubix Datacenter
• Gordy Construction Co. in the amount of $630,825 for a sewer line extension to serve Andrews Road
• River Region Sports Fields LLC in the amount of $2,108,812.50 for drainage and turf fields at Floral Park.
The council also approved the following items:
• Expense reports from various departments
• The sale of a city trash truck, deemed and designated as “surplus,” to the city of Smiths Station in the amount of $20,000
• The purchase of a three-year contract with KnowBe4 Security Awareness Training for the IT department in the amount of $17,868
• The purchase of two 2023 Ford vans from National Auto Fleet Group in the total amount of $106,442.72
• An addendum concerning warranty to the professional services agreement with Osmose Utilities Services Inc.
• A letter of engagement with Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne P.C. for legal advice and services
• An annual action plan to HUD that “identifies and describes activities which the city intends to undertake with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds” and a budget for plan year 2022 in the total amount of $258,169
• The three weed abatement assessments at 100 Ave. C, Avenue C and 200 Ave. C. The total for the three assessments was $6,008.78.
The council took the following actions related to ordinances:
• Tabled again the second reading of an ordinance to approve and adopt a plan for redistricting Opelika’s council districts
• The second reading of an ordinance to amend the text of the city’s zoning ordinance: Section 7.3A district regulations, Section 7.7 “Downtown Residential Living” and Section 7.3C use categories (matrix table)
• The first reading of an ordinance to amend the city’s Code of Ordinances by adding a section outlining the policy for electronic participation in meetings by council members. Aja formally introduced the ordinance.
The council deliberated on the ordinance to amend the text of the city’s zoning ordinance because of traffic concerns and how the city would handle it, including if the city would pay for any amount of the work done. Mayor Gary Fuller said the city “very well could be paying” for part of the cost of a turn lane. The vote was 3-2, with both Aja and Baker-Norris voting nay and Allen, Smith and Rauch voting in favor.
For more information on the agenda items for this meeting, visit www.opelika-al.gov/129/Agendas-Minutes.