Clifton may be a small town, but it deals with the same issues larger cities do — zoning, the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance and, yes, even doggie droppings.
Here's an update of actions taken at the last two Clifton Town Council meetings:
On Oct. 7, the town Planning Commission recommended Clifton approve a new, community open-space zoning district to accommodate community events. The council members did so.
"It deals with land such as the flood plain, the property next to the old barn [off Main Street] and all the town parks," said Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley. "In the current zoning classification, it wasn't legal to have community events on residential or commercial property."
Council members also decided to erect signs in the town's gazebo park stating dogs must be leashed and their owners must scoop up their droppings. "It has been a problem," admitted Chesley. "[Resident] Donna Netschert made the motion. She said something ought to be done, and we all agreed with her."
At last week's meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 4, the town formed a real-estate committee — residents Brant Baber and Margo Buckley — to look at town-owned property and recommend what to do with it.
"For example, the old Town Hall building hasn't been used in a year because it needs structural repairs," said Chesley. "And the town just spent $1,000 repairing the well." There's no kitchen, only four rooms and a half-bath. The dilemma now is whether Clifton should sell the house or fix it up and rent it. And if it's rented, should it be used as a home or business?
"We've been kicking it around for years," said Chesley. "The property is zoned residential, but has been used as a town office since 1974. If we wanted to rent it out commercially, [the land] would have to be rezoned."
WITH THE HOLIDAYS approaching, the council made a decision about the town Christmas tree in Ayre Square (on Main Street, near the Heart in Hand Restaurant). "It's in very shabby condition," said Chesley. "An arborist looked at it and told us to replace it because it's never been taken care of, pruned or fertilized. He said there was no way it would ever look good."
Clifton's Tom McNamara is heading this year's Christmas-tree lighting ceremony, so he visited several nurseries in search of a new tree and found one. The current tree is a 50-foot Norway spruce; the new one is a fast-growing, 18-foot blue spruce that cost nearly $2,500 and will be planted in the next few weeks.
First, though, the old tree will be taken down and its stump removed. Then, on Saturday, Dec. 6, after the annual Clifton Candlelight Homes Tour, the town will hold a "grand illumination" (tree lighting) ceremony at 7:30 p.m. to officially inaugurate the new tree.
In other business, the council members overturned a decision made by Clifton's Architectural Review Board (ARB). Town residents Jeff and Michelle Stein recently added a new porch onto their home on Dell Avenue. But since they used material that wasn't 100 percent wood, the ARB objected.
The Steins appealed to the Town Council and won. "We agreed to it because the wood is not on the original structure — it's on the addition," explained Chesley. "And it's not noticeable from the street."
On Dec. 2, the Town Council and Planning Commission will hold a joint public hearing at 7 p.m. to discuss how Clifton can comply with new state mandates regarding the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance. Said Chesley: "We hope to adopt it that night so we can implement it by the state deadline of Dec. 31."