The Billings City Council swiftly adopted changes to local ordinances dealing with noise, nuisances and going-out-of-business sales Monday night.
The council also refused to reconsider its previous denial of a donated cornerstone from the Masonic Fraternity. The Masons had proposed placing the cornerstone in the new Billings Public Library but were rebuffed at the last meeting.
Councilman Rich McFadden, who was absent then, moved for reconsideration Monday, which would have placed the item back on the agenda for the next meeting. His motion lost on a 6-4 vote, with only Denis Pitman, Angelo Cimmino and Mayor Tom Hanel voting with McFadden.
The ordinance changes were all proposed in order to update decades-old laws and to clean up confusing language. All were adopted unanimously.
The biggest change in the noise ordinance will allow construction projects involving loud noise to start at 7 a.m., rather than 8 a.m. The ordinance also gives the city administrator authority to grant variances for events like the Magic City Blues event, and those decisions could be appealed to the council.
The nuisance ordinance was changed primarily to give the city more power to act in situations involving no response from a property owner in violation of the law.
Assistant City Attorney Craig Hensel said there were cases where no action was taken for years because the property owner would not open the door to a code enforcement officer or reply to registered mail.
The revised ordinance provides alternative methods of serving a notice, which must be served before a civil action can be pursued against a property owner.
The changes having to do with going-out-of-business sales expand the definition of going out of business to include retirement and loss of lease and eliminate the requirement of a “detailed inventory” from a business about to conduct such a sale.
It also limits a going-out-of-business sale to 90 days, with no extensions, and adds a new section prohibiting false advertising.
The council also approved increases in water and wastewater fees that will generate an additional $245,000 in water revenues and $754,000 in wastewater revenues. The vote was 6-4, with Jim Ronquillo, Pitman, Cimmino and McFadden voting “no.”
On a 9-1 vote, the council approved the purchase of 2.3 acres of vacant land next to the police evidence yard and building on Midland Road. The $600,000 purchase is for future expansion of the city’s operations center on Midland.