Council reaching out to landlords

STEUBENVILLE – The City Council planning committee will invite members of the Jefferson County Landlords Association to a Feb. 11 meeting to discuss ideas to improve high rental neighborhoods in the city.

The planning committee is set to meet that day at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.

A majority of council members met for 90 minutes Wednesday night to discuss a number of ideas presented by 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto and 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson, for improving the city neighborhoods.

The council members appeared ready to consider a rental inspection program if the proper procedures are followed as well as:

* Determining a proper fee structure for rental registration and rental inspections.

* Enforcing existing code violations; suggesting landlords include crime free lease language.

* Budget funding for demolition of dilapidated structures outside of the Community Development Block Grant neighborhoods. The planning committee members agreed to ask the council safety committee to research criminal activity nuisance legislation as well as revising the city’s curfew law for minors.

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi told council members he does not have enough staff members to conduct rental property inspections on a regular basis.

“We all know where the problems are. Let’s start there. You are talking about the hilltops. The inspection will give a property owner the incentive to maintain his property,” said Law Director S. Gary Repella.

Johnson suggested Steubenville should look at the inspection fee structure already in place in Akron.

“I’m not trying to gouge the landlords. But I do want a reasonable fee,” noted Johnson.

“We have to do something, but we must do it in the right way. How do we enforce the system without regulations? I don’t want to see empty houses. We have to be careful when we do this,” remarked Councilman at large Kenny Davis.

Johnson also cited East Lansing, Mich., where neighborhood residents have been given the power by the city council there to petition within their district to limit future rental properties.

“That isn’t the council limiting the rental properties. It is the council giving power to the residents of different neighborhoods to cap rental property in their neighborhoods at the existing number of rentals. It is a way that city is trying to preserve their neighborhoods. And a landlord might see that as a way of maintaining a certain number of rental properties in a neighborhood making their property more valuable,” said Johnson.

“We need to invite the landlords to our next meeting so they understand where we are coming from, and we can discuss the issues,” added Davis.

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