The Maplewood city council on Tuesday passed a bill to waive occupancy permit inspection fees for naturally occurring affordable housing units. Mayor Nikylan Knapper said this bill was due to the hard work of the planning and zoning commission.
Naturally occurring affordable housing, according to the Noah Impact Fund, refers to “residential rental properties that are affordable, but are unsubsidized by any federal program. Their rents are relatively low compared to the regional housing market.”
A ordinance pertaining to the number of pets (dogs and cats) allowed in a household was amended. The ordinance previously stated that either two dogs or two cats were allowed in one house. The total was amended to a total of five — any combination of dogs or cats. The city fee was also removed.
Councilman Matt Coriell, who introduced the bill, said after the meeting that the tag and the associated fee duplicated the required county tag, for rabies control. He also said the cost to the city was greater than what was brought in, especially since many residents didn’t comply.
The council also voted to place a question on the ballot in the April 2 elections whether to amend city ordinance number 6035. The wording that passed states: “Shall Article IX. — Department of Law of the City Charter of the City of Maplewood be amended as outlined in City Ordinance No. 6035.” A council member said outside of the meeting that the wording will be changed to be more helpful to voters. Councilwoman Chasity Mattox cast the only “no” vote. The complete bill has been added to the bottom of this article.
Mayor Nikylan Knapper said in the mayor’s report that she has been in contact with Catholic Charities about “the land off Marshall” to convert the land into affordable housing, focusing on elders. She said a similar conversion was very well done in Webster Groves.
In the public forum session of the meeting some residents asked some pointed questions. The council doesn’t normally answer public forum questions, and they didn’t on Tuesday night.
Maplewood business owner Eliza Coriell said that in the Dec. 12 council session, Councilman Faulkingham said that the salary for the new city manager was still being negotiated.
“Since then we’ve learned that the contract was signed the same day by Ms. Withycombe and by Mayor Knapper the following day,” Coriell said. “I was hoping council could clarify when the salary for the new city manager was decided.” Withycombe’s salary is set at $157,000, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Then resident and former councilwoman, Sandi Phillips, read from the Missouri Revised Statues regarding minutes for closed sessions, stating that a public body is allowed to hold closed meetings for confidential communications — but any minutes shall be made public upon final disposition of the matter.
Translating into plain English, she said that Missouri state law says the discussion can be closed, but after the dust settles the public has a right to know what the government is doing with their taxes.
“With that said,” Phillips said, “Are you now ready to tell citizens why a payout of $131,000 was provided to the former city manager, Michael Reese, upon his exit? In addition, what legal costs were occurred in reaching this $131,000 settlement?”
Resident Marie Long, asked the council online, remotely, also about the hiring of the new city manager, Amber Withycombe.
“As a community that embraces diversity, equality and inclusion, how does the the city manager search employ these values?” Long asked. “Due to the limited nature and scope of the search it appears that an entire population of individuals was left out of the potential opportunity, and it’s very likely some of those were minorities.”