Darlington City Council passes ordinance against messy properties

By Stephan Drew, Editor


Darlington City Council met on Tuesday, July 11, 2023, and discussed several issues, including penalties for unkempt properties, extending two-hour parking limits past 5pm, and purchases for the Fire Department.

Ms. Janie Lathan, a resident and business owner, expressed her gratitude to the City for providing clarification on the budget process. She mentioned that the City had distributed packets containing a copy of the notification of the public hearing for the budget, allowing the public to keep track of the proceedings. Lathan also suggested that the City should consider publishing the proposed budget on its website, following the example of municipalities across the state and nation, to enhance transparency.

During the meeting, council passed Ordinance 2023-07, which imposes additional penalties on property owners who neglect their properties in Darlington. Building & Codes Enforcement Official Sheila Jones emphasized that the purpose of the ordinance was to send a message of unity in maintaining the beauty of Darlington. The new penalty allows the City to charge $500 to property owners who repeatedly violate the City’s laws regarding unkempt and overgrown lots for as long as they own the property. Previously, the penalty only applied to second or subsequent violations within a 12-month period. Jones stated that the changes were necessary due to the extensive notification process involved, as the City often sends over 300 violation letters, many for the same property addresses, within a 24-month period.

Additionally, the updated ordinance expands the authority of codes enforcements to charge individuals for various offenses related to solid waste, including bulky refuse and garbage. Jones highlighted instances such as a half-boat left on the street, expecting the City to dispose of it, which the City is not responsible for. Violators receive a certified letter informing them of the issue and granting them 14 days to resolve it. If the property owner fails to address the problem, the City sends a contractor and bills the owner, adding a 15% penalty. For repeat offenders, an additional $500 fine is imposed. Failure to pay the bill may result in a lien on the property.

The approved 2023-2024 budget has been made available on the City’s website for public access. The Council also approved the first reading of Ordinance 2023-08, which aims to extend the hours during which two-hour parking limits are enforced in downtown Darlington. Currently, the limit runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the proposed amendment seeks to extend it until 10 p.m. Building Official Sheila Jones explained that the extension is necessary due to the considerable number of businesses operating beyond 5 p.m.

In other matters, the Council expressed gratitude and received updates from Miss Darlington Volunteer Ashlyn Cady, and Miss Teen Darlington Volunteer Abigayle Stokes. They also reviewed information about the City’s FOG (Fats, Oils, and Grease) program. Furthermore, the Council approved two purchases: $8,765.35 to VEI Communications for radio equipment, expected to arrive within 20-30 days, and $5,934.68 to Velocity for fire truck repairs, projected to be completed within a week.

Following the approval of the final purchase requests, the Council entered an executive session to discuss legal and contractual matters. After a 30-minute session, the Council approved a payment of $7,366.04 to the City of Bennettsville for training reimbursement before adjourning the meeting.

The Darlington City Council will next meet on August 1, 2023.

Author: Stephan Drew

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