Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Charter provision may preclude council’s renewal of 24 ordinances

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, December 8, 2008 12:08 PM EST

VERNON — The charter may prohibit the Town Council from renewing several ordinances in bulk if it’s determined they were improperly renewed in 2002 and allowed to expire.

The council has set a Dec. 16 public hearing to adopt a single ordinance aiming to group and renew all existing town codes after officials uncovered a loophole in the way those laws were renewed six years ago.

In 2002, the council, under former Mayor Diane Wheelock, passed a resolution to renew ordinance No. 194, which grouped and renewed all ordinances adopted prior for a period of 10 years.

However, town officials since have debated whether that resolution left several laws passed between 1992 and 1998 in limbo, or if another ordinance, which would’ve required a public hearing, was necessary to extend those codes.

The charter states the council has the power only to enact, amend, or repeal ordinances. It does not grant the council authority to renew repealed ordinances, suggesting that if an ordinance expired it would have to be enacted again.

Town Attorney Hal Cummings said last week that enacting all those ordinance, which may have expired due to the charter’s 10-year sunset provision, would cause unnecessary publicity, legal, and advertising costs, and soak up council time until the spring before the last ordinance was adopted again.

While Cummings has maintained that the resolution passed by the council in 2002 showed a “good faith” effort on its part to renew the codes, this new ordinance aims to ensure a legal argument can’t be made about the validity of 24 codes that would’ve expired.

While that resolution never has been challenged, Cummings said, he and other town officials said a new ordinance would remove any opportunity to challenge those laws.

The proposed ordinance also aims to renew any and all ordinances that have been repealed due to their non-renewal.

In all, 24 ordinances adopted between December 1998 and March 2002 would have expired if it had been determined the resolution passed in 2002 did not appropriately renew them.

Included in those codes are penalties for wetlands violations, procedures for the sale of town-owned land, and procedures for the assignment of delinquent tax liens.

Copyright © 2008 - Journal Inquirer