Mayor Sarah Slingerland has set her sights on updating the city’s code of ordinances, the fourth and final piece of her administration’s push to rewrite the city’s “foundation documents.”
Slingerland said reform of the city’s foundation documents has been a sequential process. The first changes came to the city’s charter in 2001, then the city’s comprehensive plan in 2008. Last year, the Common Council completed a three-year process of revamping the city’s zoning. She said rewriting the ordinances, which will be used to enforce the new zoning, is the natural last step.
“I would like to finish this before the end of my term. There were things left out of the charter process that could be picked up by the ordinances. There’s some new things that have been picked up by the zoning. The ordinances are the implementation pieces for all of the other documents,” she said. “Right now we’re trying to assess what has been done, what needs to be done and where we stand exactly.”
Johnstown, as one might expect of a 253-year-old city, has some archaic ordinances, including for example a number of codes pertaining to the proper handling of horses. Slingerland said all of those old rules need to be removed and updated.
Chris Foss, 2nd Ward Councilman, said one of the city’s older ordinances includes a rule for what kind of light can be fixed to a horse-drawn sleigh. He said the city’s ordinances also have the old rules for what kind of signs can be put up throughout the city, which was superseded by new rules for signs approved as part of the zoning law change.
Slingerland said the city is working with General Code, a Rochester-based company that will collect, bind and publish the city’s new ordinances once they are approved by the council. She said General Code works with municipalities to make certain none of the ordinances in the city’s new rule book conflict with each other or any state law.
Foss said the process of rewriting the ordinances will not be as formal as the city’s zoning commission, which was done by a committee that had about a dozen members including himself. He said the city’s department heads such as Fire Chief Bruce Heberer, City Engineer Chad Kortz and City Clerk Cathy VanAlstyne will be making the bulk of the suggestions for how to change the ordinances.
“I think we should be able to get this done within the next two years,” Foss said.