By Al Dozier
At Tuesday’s council meeting Irmo continued to take heat for its treatment of a disabled resident who was denied a request for a zoning exemption that would have helped her with a safer access to her home.
“We are disappointed in Irmo,” said Kimberly Tissot, executive director of Able, S.C. a non-profit organization that promotes independent living for the disabled, “You have disregarded federal law and offended the disability community,” she said during the public comment session of the meeting.
The town faces an alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act and could face a $40,000 settlement payment for denying a disabled citizen a zoning variance two years ago.
The resident requested a zoning change that would allow her to put a carport over a small ramp leading to her porch from her driveway. She said the ramp would get very wet after rains, causing her to fall.
But the town’s zoning board denied the request. That denial was later upheld by the Irmo Town Council.
That denial prompted a directive from the federal officials to revise zoning regulations and to compensate the disabled resident for the expenses resulting from the denial.
Irmo has referred the issue to its insurance provider.
The town has issued a statement saying that town officials did nothing wrong, and were complying with the law.
“Our organization can help you make it right,” said Tissot. “Irmo can be better.”
Irmo resident Michelle Carpenter also commented that the town made the wrong decision to deny a simple request for a carport. She also blasted Mayor Hardy King as “the most unprofessional person I have ever seen in office.”
The town is updating its ordinances in response to the HUD directive.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council gave second reading to an update that provides zoning officials to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.
In other action, the council held a lengthy discussion on a proposed resolution that would provide the town with a substitute municipal judge. Clerk of Court Kim Hoffman could assume those duties under the proposal, but Town Attorney Eric Hale said that could be interpreted as “dual office holding,” which is prohibited by state law.
The council decided to defer action on the proposal pending further review.
The council voted to appoint Ed Wadlington to the planning commission, but that action brought dissent from Councilman Barry Walker Sr. He said potential nominees did not have an opportunity to seek the post because there was no public announcement of the opening.
King said anyone interested in a post on the planning commission could apply through the town’s talent pool list of candidates.
Walker attempted to make some other nominations but didn’t get a seconding vote.
The town approved a $21,600 contract with the Edward McCain Band for a performance at the 2019 Okra Strut Festival.
The council approved a 2019 meeting schedule after canceling a July 2 meeting because of the holidays, and an Aug. 6 meeting which conflicted with the National Night Out celebration.