Property ordinance set for public review

Newly amended plan is available on Web and at City Hall

March 04, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

After one public hearing, two work sessions, one petition and a few dozen letters, e-mail messages and phone calls from residents, Westminster's newly amended proposal for property maintenance is available for review.

The proposed ordinance, which would set standards for rental properties, was posted on the Web late last week by Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan. It also is available at City Hall.

The proposal covers minimum requirements and standards for fire safety, light, sanitation, space, heating and other issues.

"This is probably one of the most studied ordinances that I've worked on in my 13 years with the city," Yowan said. "This is very unusual to do all of this."

People may comment on the proposed ordinance at the March 12 meeting of the city's mayor and Common Council. The ordinance probably will be adopted when the mayor and council meet March 26.

The proposed ordinance has been scaled back from including all properties in Westminster to only "current and future" rental properties. In addition, instead of exempting older properties from the ordinance through a grandfather clause, the city would create a three-member board of housing appeals composed of residents to hear appeals of citations.

Also added to the ordinance is the requirement that one year after the code's adoption Thomas B. Beyard, director planning and public works, will submit a report to the mayor and council about the city's experience with the property maintenance code.

Dozens of city residents, landlords and real estate agents had criticized the initial proposal as too restrictive.

Many criticisms concerned restrictions that were already part of the county's livability code, which Westminster and the rest of Carroll County have operated under since 1989, Yowan said.

"A lot of the things that excited people initially were basically the same things that are already out there somewhere," he said.

If passed, the proposed property maintenance ordinance in Westminster would be the first of its kind enacted by a municipality in Carroll.

The proposed ordinance is available on Westminster's Web site at www.carr.lib.md.us/westcity/westcity.htm

"When all is said and done and the final ordinance is passed, we don't want anyone to come back and say, `I didn't know they were considering this,'" Yowan said.

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