Devine City Council amends some Ordinances, tables action on others

Several City Ordinances were amended and others tabled by the Devine City Council during their Regular meeting on August 18.
Chapter 86 – Streets, Sidewalks, and Other Public Property
Mayor Cory Thompson said there have been multiple complaints about people mowing their yards and letting the clippings go into the street or drainage areas.
An offense is committed if a person places, deposits, discards or dumps any brush cuttings, clippings, leaves, rubbish or any detritus in any street or other public right of way in the City, or if a person causes or allows someone else to do the same.
The Ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor with each violation punishable by a fine of between $10.00 and $500.00.
“Would PD or Code Compliance have to actually physically see them do this?” Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez asked.
City Attorney Tom Cate said that would be best.
“I know what’s going to happen,” Cate said. “You’re going to go to somebody’s house and say, ‘Look, you got all these clippings out in the street.’ The guy says, ‘I didn’t do it, the wind came up and blew it all out there in the street.’
“It’s just like anything else. When you allege something in a criminal case, the state has the responsibility to prove it up.”
Thompson noted that Public Works employees have cleaned around town over the past few years.
“But they’re cleaning up a lot of mess that maybe doesn’t have to be there if people were to actually take care of their own stuff,” Thompson said.
District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega pointed out that detritus also gets dumped in alleys, and after some discussion, Council agreed to add the phrase ‘or other public right of way’ to the proposed amendment.
A motion by District 4 Councilman Chuck Guzman and Vega to approve the amendment passed unanimously with the support of District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez, District 3 Councilman David Espinosa, and District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall.
Chapter 66 Offenses and Miscellaneous Provision, Article VIII – Temporary Sales
Randall proposed increasing the number of permitted yard sales per year from two to four, and adding a yearly City-wide yard sale that would not require a permit.
“That would just be something in the spring or something in the fall,” Thompson said, comparing the timing to brush pickup. “It’s City-wide and it’s going to be whatever day or whatever weekend.”
A motion by Guzman and Lopez to allow four permitted yard sales per year and an annual City-wide yard sale passed 5-0.
Chapter 42 Environment, Article II – Noise
Thompson explained that trucks on Hwy. 173 coming down the hill from Walmart don’t engage their breaks.
“It rattles everything because they’re not using their actual brakes, they’re just shifting down and using the actual motor to break, basically,” Thompson said.
A Guzman-Lopez motion to add an Ordinance prohibiting the use of engine compression brakes or altered mufflers passed 5-0.
Chapter 18 Buildings and Building Regulations, Article VIII – Unsafe Buildings
Thompson said his goal in amending this Ordinance was to fine owners of abandoned or unoccupied buildings, but that the City is unable to do so because it is a Type A General Law City.
General law cities have no charter and can only exercise power specifically granted or implied by State statute, whereas Home Rule cities can do anything authorized by its charter that is not specifically prohibited or preempted by the state constitution or state or federal law.
To transition to a home rule city, Devine must have at least 5,000 residents and approve the change via an election.
“We do have ours [Ordinance],” Thompson said. “All we can do is basically enforce what we already have.”
Rodriguez said the City can execute administrative search warrants to inspect buildings for safety. City Engineer Raul Garcia and Code Enforcement officer Ruben Chapa examined one building that Rodriguez said in moving through the process of being demolished.
Randall asked if abandoned buildings were on any kind of inspection schedule.
Rodriguez said there hasn’t been in the past, but that Chapa is gathering a list of unoccupied buildings that appear unsafe in order to inspect them. However, Bureau Veritas, the company the City contracts with for building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing inspections, won’t make the determination about whether or not a building is unsafe, meaning the designation is up to Garcia, who works out of San Antonio.
“We would have to utilize him to be able to go in there and do an administrative search warrant,” Rodriguez said.
“So we can’t even go inspect it just to determine if it is or not?” Randall asked. “We have to actually have a wall fall in or something?”
“We can’t go onto private property unless we have an administrative search warrant,” Rodriguez said.
“You even have to have a probable cause affidavit from somebody who has personal knowledge about the condition of the building,” Cate said.
A Randall-Espinosa motion to table the amendment passed 5-0
Chapter 14 – Animals and Fowl
The current Ordinance is not in line with State codes and doesn’t require registration for cats and dogs.
“When this particular section of the Code was rewritten, there was no requirement that dogs or cats be registered,” Cate said. “So then we were having a hard time enforcing it. We couldn’t determine who owned a dog or a cat.”
Randall raised concerns about the affordability for microchipping pets.
“I get the registration,” Randall said. “I get that, and most every city in the USA has that. But the microchip part, I’m kind of leery on that. We’re requiring them, because I can guarantee you they’re not going to do it. A lot of them aren’t.”
“There’s going to be a lot of people, whatever we require, they’re not going to do it,” Cate said. “Chip, tag, it’s not going to make any difference. Having said that, if the Council will give me direction, I’ll come up with something that Council can approve.”
A Lopez-Randall motion to table the amendment pending the removal of a microchipping requirement passed 5-0.
The amended Ordinances are printed in the Public Notice section of this edition of The Devine News.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer