Tired of living among houses overrun by weeds, trash and vagrants, a group of Westminster residents last night urged the Common Council to go ahead with its plans to create a city livability code to set standards for rental and other properties.
A half-dozen members of the West Side Community Group told the mayor and council they are eager for the city to create and enforce its livability code, which would require property owners to maintain standards for light, ventilation, heating, fire safety, protection from the elements, and other items.
Councilman L. Gregory Pecoraro said he plans to introduce a property maintenance code ordinance at the Nov. 13 council meeting.
If the proposal is passed, Westminster would be the only municipality in Carroll County with such a code, he said.
"We feel this is integral to maintaining our sense of community on the west side," said Deborah Finch, a founder and organizer of the community group.
The group was formed two years ago by city residents Finch and Robin Kable to help combat the drug problem, fight crime and preserve the integrity of their properties in the west end of Westminster.
Westminster operates under the county's livability code, which residents complain is not being adequately enforced.
"It's just going from bad to worse," Teresa Dawedeit of West Main Street said of the house next to hers, where she said transients regularly litter the porch with beer cans.
Although the problems stemming from neglect by some owners only affect a small number of the city's properties, Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan and other city officials said they were eager to correct the situation.
"We don't want them to get away with it anymore," Yowan said.
The city's authority only covers the exterior of buildings and items such as garbage, high weeds and junked cars. Under the code, if a property owner has high grass or an accumulation of trash and doesn't respond to a warning letter, the city can correct the situation and impose a lien on the property for repayment.
The new city ordinance could be in place by December. It would be enforced by city staff at first, then a part-time code enforcement officer might be hired later, Yowan said. Violators could face fines as much as $200 for each offense, according a draft ordinance dated May 24, 2000.
In other business, the Common Council approved a petition to close an alley adjacent to Grace Lutheran Church to expand the Carroll Street church.
In addition, Kristen L. Stevens was appointed to the Historic District Commission. Stevens is an archaeologist at Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa.
The council also presented nine copies of the book "Maryland 157: The Incorporated Cities and Towns" to school principals in Westminster. The book, which showcases all of the state's 157 municipalities, was published by the Maryland Municipal League, which donated nearly 3,000 copies to schools and libraries in the state.