The city council voted unanimously to overturn the policy, which was adopted in August and stated that no permits would be issued for construction on lots if the street they sit on — or connecting streets — had been left incomplete by developers.
Officials have said every subdivision in Canton has the problem of streets being left incomplete by developers who went bankrupt or simply left the city after the housing market crash.
The city council has also hired on a third-party firm to do a study about how to solve the issue.
Within the now-dead policy, there was a loophole that would have allowed building on unfinished streets if someone had put up money guaranteeing that it could be finished. But for the residents and builders who spoke before the council Thursday, that loophole wasn’t enough.
River Green subdivision resident Neal Mullikin, who is also in the construction industry, agreed Canton has a problem with unfinished streets, but said the answer the council chose was wrong.
“The answer is not turning off the lights,” Mullikin told the council Thursday. “We all know that the streets have to be top-coated. But just turning the lights off to these guys that want to build in this town and that want to bring income and tax dollars into this town definitely is so far from the answer.”
Homebuilder Uwe Gogolin, who said he had been building in River Green for several years, told the council he owns a few lots he would like to build on, but those lots had become useless because of the policy.
“Right now, I can’t do anything with my lots. I’m being held hostage,” Gogolin said. “I’m not able to exercise my business. I’m not able to make a living.”
Because Gogolin isn’t a developer and only a builder, he said the streets were never his responsibility.
“I’m a builder, I own a lot,” he said. “I don’t own the street. I never owned the street. I didn’t have anything to do with putting the street in.”
After hearing the speakers Thursday night, Councilman John Beresford said the council erred when it adopted the policy by not thinking through all the potential issues.
Councilman Bill Bryan said the policy was a “mistake” on the city council’s part and it had to go.
“When we voted on this policy in August, I had no idea that there were builders, individuals that owned these lots already (and) were ready to build on them,” Bryan said during the meeting. “I had no idea.”
But after hearing there were builders ready to build, Bryan said he realized the policy was “completely unfair.”
“We need to turn these permits loose tomorrow,” he said. “We need to do that right now. That is not right. They bought their lots in good faith. We cannot hold these (permits) hostage. All these guys would have to do is get together, get a lawyer, (file) a class action suit.”