NEWBERRY – At the last city commission meeting of this year, the Newberry City Commission set the stage for next year, and that includes improving its image by focusing on cleaning up unkempt property and by giving the nod to open-sided commercial pavilions.

In a slideshow presentation, City Commissioner Jordan Marlowe pointed out some areas around the community that seemed to be abandoned due to untrimmed shrubbery. The issue was brought to his attention by a previous mayor, Freddie Warmack.  Marlowe said when residents neglect their properties, not only does the city suffer, but also the neighbors of those properties. It was also suggested that a home’s property value might be lowered due to a neighbor’s carelessness.

City manager Keith Ashby said some residents might be hesitant to warn the city about other people’s property.  “Citizens are reluctant to come forward when it’s their neighbor,” he said.

Aside from private property, a resident suggested the city should also take care of its own neglected property. The codes enforcement committee, currently headed by fire chief David Rodriguez, will be informed since fines can be levied when residents do not maintain their properties.

Along with keeping Newberry looking clean and aesthetically pleasing, the commission approved the use of open-air pavilions, labeled as commercial pavilions in the ordinance, to be placed around the city. Since the city introduced its farmer’s market in the downtown area in November, city attorney S. Scott Walker said the city is trying to situate vendors in a particular area. The farmer’s market, which is held every Saturday, has been located around the railroad tracks, a few blocks away from City Hall.

Some residents disagreed with the pavilions, saying it could be interpreted that other local vendors’ fruit and vegetable stands are not viewed as aesthetically pleasing by the city. They are concerned that pavilions will compete and eventually force out the few remaining produce stands.

City Commissioner Lois Forte said she appreciates having local farmers selling their produce and encourages small businesses, making them a unique asset to Newberry. After her comments, she voted against the ordinance establishing open air pavilions, but the measure passed with a 4 to 1 vote.

Wrapping up the meeting, the commission announced annual holiday events, such as the Festival of Lights and a Christmas parade, both scheduled for Saturday, Dec.17.