STEUBENVILLE - City planning and zoning commission officials are encouraging local landlords to attend the April 7 commission meeting to discuss proposed legislation that will require mandatory rental property inspections under certain conditions as well as an ordinance that will allow residents to limit future rental properties in their neighborhoods.
For the second straight month the planning commission members discussed the two proposed ordinances, but at Monday night's meeting two commission members appeared to question if the legislation is needed.
"Under the language in the rental inspection ordinance if a landlord stays out of trouble they don't face inspections. We don't want to harass the landlords," observed Commission Chairman Bill Hendricks.
"I see this as a tool. I can only think of a handful of times since 2008 when we would have had to use language like this. I don't see it being used daily. But it is there to be used if need be. The vast majority of landlords who came to past meetings are not the problem. Most landlords have addressed problems," said Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi.
According to Petrossi, the proposed ordinance calls for twice yearly interior and exterior inspections of a rental unit if two or more notices and orders to comply have been issued to the owner pursuant to the property maintenance code within any two-year period and have not been complied within the time provided.
"The second reason would be if the owner has been convicted of a violation of the property maintenance code or if the owner has had a premise ordered demolished," explained Petrossi.
"I really respect the ordinance and think it is long overdue. But how do we prevent a back lash from the landlord organization. I am asking that we be fair about everything. I don't want to overwhelm the landlords or appear to punish them on everything. We have to treat our landlords like any other business. It is important how the city leaders come across on this issue. It is important we and the landlord association understand each other. I also don't think the landlords should be responsible for water they don't use," stated commission member Teresa DiCarlantonio.
DiCarlantonio also questioned a second proposed ordinance allowing neighborhood residents to petition and then vote to limit future rental properties in their district.
"If you own a home and you want to sell your house under this ordinance it will be more difficult to sell your house," said Commission member Eric Exley.
"The legislation is similar to ordinances already in place in other communities. Current rental properties would be grandfathered. But residents could vote to keep the number of rental properties at the current number. This will allow residents in a neighborhood to vote to freeze the number of rental properties," said 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson, who researched the issue.
"I also believe we should enforce the maintenance property code throughout the city," added Johnson.
Johnson has prepared a page long list of issues to be discussed during future planning commission meetings including the enactment of a criminal activity nuisances ordinance, require crime free lease addendums be part of any lease agreement and budget funds for the demolition of dilapidated structures outside of the Community Development Block Grant zone.
In other business during the nearly 90-minute meeting, the commission reviewed the planning and community development report.
The commission scheduled its next meeting for 7 p.m. on April 7.