Conflicting requests

Thursday, July 5, 2007

City council members and other city officials often have to deal with conflicting requests from citizens, choosing one side over another when both sides have merit.

At the last meeting of the Cherokee City Council, one citizen asked that a person who owns property in the same block be prohibited from hiring a service to spray dust control material, "tree sap", on the gravel alley, something done in that alley several times a year for many years.

Another citizen from a different part of town, not only wanted the dust control material sprayed on the alley behind his property, but wanted the city to pay for that.

The material does control dust but it smells for a couple of days after being sprayed and gets on clothes and vehicles.

The two situations discussed at the city council are reportedly quite different. The alley in the first situation was described as having only two drivers who ever use it, neither one being fast drivers. The other alley was described as having considerable through traffic, much of which is by people who do not live in the block.

So should the council consider on a case-by-case basis on whether the amount of traffic in an alley creates a dust problem that outweighs the negative effects of spraying the alley? That would be impractical in the case of individual blocks of alley and so would the city starting a program of paying for the alley spraying where it is allowed.

So far, only one request for the city to do this at city expense has been made, but the city would need to be consistent in dealing with all future requests.

There can be a case made that it would be a legitimate function of the city to control dust created by high traffic through alleys, but the city has more pressing needs for its street department budget.

The city council acted reasonably to defer any action on the matter until a later date but we question a conclusion voiced at the meeting that the city would need a new ordinance to prevent an individual from having an alley sprayed at his or her own expense.

An alley is city property so the city does not need an ordinance to tell people not to spray an alley any more than the city needs an ordinance prohibiting people spraying a sticky substance on city buildings or vehicles.

Whether or not an ordinance is created, the city will have to develop a consistent policy.

As a generality, a bit of dust seems less of a potential nuisance than the dust control material.