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City Restricts Panhandling, Urban Camping, Mobile Vending and Discusses Proposed “Pocket Community” Housing

Photo courtesy of Ryan Faircloth – The Faircloths are considering building a “pocket community” similar to a subdivision in Rossville, which includes the homes pictured here. Built 15 feet apart, the smaller homes would sell for roughly $220,000.

News Editor

Some readers may recall that last year, the City of Trenton Board of Commissioners approved the use of $20,000 from SPLOST funds to purchase additional Christmas lights for the city. However, it was too late to order the lights in time for Christmas.

At last week’s August meeting, Monda Wooten (street commissioner) returned to the matter, reporting that she spoke with the Alliance for Dade about an option for local businesses to receive a discount on these lights if they join the city’s order. The city is receiving a ten percent discount and free shipping, which local businesses can join in on. Contact the Alliance or the city if interested in joining the order.

The lights are from Christmas Done Bright in Sevierville, Tenn.

The board then discussed and later approved three ordinances. The full ordinances can be read via the city’s online meeting and agenda board.

The first regards panhandling, with portions reading, “Aggressive solicitation prohibited. It shall be unlawful to solicit in an aggressive manner in any public place…It shall be unlawful to solicit on private property if the owner, tenant, or lawful occupant has asked the person not to solicit on the property or has posted a sign clearly indicating that solicitations are not welcome on the property…It shall be unlawful to solicit from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle on a public street in exchange for blocking, occupying, or reserving a public parking space.”

The second regards urban camping, with portions reading, “It shall be unlawful to camp or to store personal property in any public park…It shall be unlawful to camp, sleep, store personal property, sit, or lie down on any public street…It shall be unlawful to camp or store personal property underneath any bridge…It shall be unlawful to camp, sleep, or store personal property on any private property without express permission of the property owner.”

This ordinance includes several exceptions, such as, “Persons sitting or lying down as a result of a medical emergency; Persons sitting in wheelchairs in public parks, public streets, or other public places; Persons sitting down while attending parades for which valid permits have been issued…Persons sitting on chairs or benches supplied by a public agency or abutting private property owner; provided, however, that this exception shall not be construed so as to allow persons to camp on such a chair or bench.”

The third regards mobile food vending, with a portion reading, “ It is unlawful for any person to sell, or offer for sale, food or beverages of any type from a food truck without first obtaining from the City a license to operate as a mobile food vendor, except as part of a City-sponsored or sanctioned special event.”

The board also discussed and later approved a 180-day moratorium on the construction of tiny homes until the city is able to look more closely into safety codes. Mayor Alex Case said, “We’ve had a lot of controversy come up over this…We want it to meet the full residential code just like every house being built now, and a lot of them are not. That’s just not fair in the values it puts on other areas is not the best. That’s what a lot of people calling are concerned about.”

As the building inspector for the city, Ansel Smith explained that other counties suggested looking into ordinances regarding tiny homes before issues arose.

State laws include guidelines for ceiling height and window size. Smith proposed requiring that the homes are constructed on site. He said, “We want nice stuff coming in. It can end up looking like a bunch of trailers coming in if we’re not careful.”

Mike Norris, police commissioner, read the police report. In July, the Trenton Police Department answered 371 calls for service and completed 1,635 business checks. 160 traffic stops resulted in 87 citations being issued.

Lucretia Houts, fire and utility commissioner, read the fire report. In July, the Trenton Fire Department had 101 calls, 48 of which were canceled en route. The call break-down is as follows:

  • 9 fire-related
  • 10 accidents
  • 18 medical
  • 16 standby

The board agreed to meet on August 22 at noon for a budget workshop.

Case again noted the need to find funding to train Downtown Development Authority members. Of the animal shelter, he added, “We’ve still got a lot of homework to do…still a lot of unanswered questions. They have worked on the lot. We’ve all semi-agreed on a basic plan.”

During citizen’s participation, Ryan and Melissa Faircloth inquired about updating an ordinance so that they can build a “pocket community” subdivision at 90 Glenview Drive in Trenton, at the corner of Glenview Drive and Sunset Drive and across from Bolt Storage.

The Faircloths said that Steven Henry gave them a tour of a similar subdivision called Idle Place that he built in Rossville off of Steele Road. Their plan for these small homes is to have an HOA (Homeowners Association) so that it would be kept up well, and a no SLTC student covenant and no Airbnb covenant.

They plan to build 13 to 18 homes that are spaced 15 feet apart. Smith reported that the current ordinances require 25 feet between homes. The houses will be between 1,100 to 1,400 square feet, selling at an average price of $200 per square foot, meaning the smaller homes would sell for roughly $220,000.

The land in question is currently zoned for apartments, but Melissa explained that they believe a pocket community would be more valuable and desirable than apartments.

Wooten expressed her opinion that neighbors should be made aware of the plan, saying, “I’ve learned sitting on here, when you do something, you better talk to the residents.” Ryan replied, “If no one approves it, we’ll just bring apartments cause that’s what it’s zoned for. We were just trying to bring something a little better quality to the neighborhood.”

The city will continue speaking with the city attorney and looking into next steps, which would include publicizing the potential change and holding a public hearing.

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