Cottoner

Earlington City Council member Robert Cottoner spoke out about proposed property seizures during Tuesday night’s meeting as Johnny Wix and Ann Gipson listened.

People who expected fireworks at Tuesday night’s Earlington City Council meeting received some. But people who wanted unity from the council received that, too.

The council took seven unanimous votes on properties in litigation. But first, the members and the mayor had an airing of grievances.

“All of a sudden, we’re wanting to tear down properties,” councilman Robert Cottoner said.

Cottoner demanded to know the “backstory” behind seven locations that were on the agenda — locations which were scheduled for a special meeting two weeks ago, which never happened for lack of a quorum.

“Everybody that’s ever cited has got a time frame to meet whatever situation they’re in,” Mayor Phil Hunt said.

“What about the poor people?” Steven Cavanaugh asked from the audience during the debate. When told he was out of turn, the homeowner who accused Hunt this week of harassing him walked out for several minutes.

The situation in Earlington has grown so tense that Cottoner said one homeowner was told not to attend Tuesday night’s meeting “unless the sheriff would be here.” A deputy was present, but never had to intervene.

“There have been no threats made by anybody in this building,” Hunt responded. “I’ve been threatened myself.”

Council member Vernon Gipson called Hunt’s statement “hearsay.”

Yet the council took 6-0 votes seven times on properties in litigation. Action on four of them was tabled until the March meeting. One was postponed until July because improvements are under way. A sixth property will await a title opinion, while a seventh was approved for demolition.

The council also agreed informally to tour Earlington as a group, to examine properties that Hunt considers rundown and in need of action. A date for that tour was not set.

Several council members were concerned about side-by-side homes on Dake Street. Ann Gipson, who also writes a column for The Messenger’s Pennyrile Plus, said one is the home of a disabled veteran, while a retired city employee on dialysis lives next door.

Hunt said while the property actions sound heartless, he doesn’t want to evict anyone. In fact, he said people can continue to live in homes even if the city votes to condemn them.

“I’m part of the problem, I know,” Hunt said at one point. “It’s not the right thing to do. But we have no other option available.”

Hunt invited all Earlington residents to visit his office at City Hall about concerns with properties and improvements. But he said several properties need to be torn down, if only to stop squatters.

“We’ve got a group of floaters in town, that migrate from one to the next to the next,” Hunt said.

Cavanaugh received his chance to speak out at the end of the 90-minute meeting. He said directly to Hunt much of what he said in The Messenger Tuesday, about lacking “constitutional rights” with his property.

Hunt and City Attorney Natasha Little tried to assure Cavanaugh that city and state ordinances permit certain rules on private property. All seemed to agree that building a privacy fence will solve much of Cavanaugh’s situation.

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