Monday, May 19, 2014
 
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City to vote again on tombstone ordinance

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[May 19, 2014]  LINCOLN - On Monday evening the Lincoln city council will be asked to vote on three ordinance changes that they technically voted down at the last voting session on May 5.

Two weeks ago with only six members of the council present for voting, the group voted on a motion that combined three ordinance changes into one.  Included in those changes were matters that pertained to the building of a horse stable for residential use inside city limits, changes to rules regarding construction of drive-thru businesses, and allowance for mortuaries to sell tombstones from an outdoor display in a residential district. 

The first two changes were insignificant.  City building and safety officer John Lebegue explained that the firm the city uses for recording ordinances had advised him that the ordinances had been placed in the wrong location in city code. 

It would be only a minor change, relocating the two ordinances within the cityís code book, and had nothing to do with the language or rules of the two ordinances.  However, because it was technically a change, the council had to approve it before the firm; Sterling Codifiers, could correct the issue. 

During the last vote, these two portions of the motion drew very little attention from the council.  But the third portion became a matter of much discussion. 

The third change to the ordinance, if passed would have added a special use permit to city code pertaining to mortuaries.  The new permit would have allowed for the display and sale of tombstones at the mortuary. 

The request was first brought to the city plan commission by Don Peasley, owner of Peasley Funeral Homes and Peasley Memorials.

Peasley has operated both businesses for several years in Lincoln.  For quite some time the tombstones were sold out of a different location than that of the funeral home.  However, recent events for Peasley brought him to the decision to set up the tombstones on the front lawn of the funeral home.

After the fact, it was discovered that as an owner of a funeral home in a residential district, city code did not specifically allow Peasley to place the stones on display.  He was asked to go to the plan commission and request that they recommend a change in the city code.  Once the plan commission did agree to recommend the change, it was up to the city council to allow it.

Lebegue first brought this topic to the council at the Tuesday, April 29 meeting.  He said the plan commission had expressed that if allowed, the monuments should be shielded from street view and they were not keen on having them on display in a front yard.

As this was being discussed last week, there were council members who objected to the idea of having the tombstones out in the open in a residential community.  Alderman Jonie Tibbs specifically said the neighbors didnít want to sit out on their front porches and be looking at tombstones.

However, it was noted that the plan commission had stipulated that the monuments needed to be shielded from street view and that Peasley was prepared to plant dense, ever-green shrubbery around the display to hide it from street view.

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The cityís newest alderman, Scott Cooper expressed he was disturbed that the matter had been handled in reverse order to what it should have been.  He said Peasley put up the display then came to the city to get permission, when he should have gotten the permission, then placed the display.

On the other side of that argument, Mayor Keith Snyder pointed out the city has no ordinance that prohibits the sale of monuments, and it does have an ordinance allowing mortuaries to do business in residential districts.  He said one could consider that selling tombstones is a part of Peasleyís business and therefore automatically allowed.

Because the vote being taken was on a change of ordinance, the city rules state that the majority of elected aldermen, not the majority present for the vote, have to approve.  The magic number then was five 'yes' votes in order to pass.  With six aldermen present, the motion received only four ayes, and two nays; therefore failed.

Last Tuesday evening, it was explained there would be new votes taken on the three changes to city code.  The changes recommended by Sterling Codifiers will be one motion and the tombstone issue will be a separate motion.

Tibbs said she had felt all along these should have been broken out and was glad to see that, but she took exception to voting on the tombstone ordinance again.  She said that had already been voted on and failed, so she didnít see that particular part of the ordinance needed a new vote.

At the May 5th meeting Jeff Hoinacki and Melody Anderson were both absent.  On Tuesday Hoinacki was back and is expected to be back tonight.  Tibbs noted the vote would change by numbers because there would be at least one more alderman present.

During discussion, Hoinacki did not indicate how he plans to vote on the tombstone issue.  If he votes to allow the special use, along with previous four supporters from last week, the motion would pass tonight.

If the motion does pass.  Peasley will then have to return to the city plan commission and seek the permit.  The plan commission may or may not approve his request.  If they do approve it, it will then come again to the city council, who also may or may not approve the request.

[By NILA SMITH]

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