MILLERSPORT – Council members spent most of Tuesday night’s meeting debating a revision to the village’s property maintenance code.
The revised ordinance was on the agenda for its first reading. Mayor Gary Matheny opened the discussion, stating, “Hopefully, we’ll have a little bit of bite.” He also expressed some frustration in getting the City of Lancaster’s Law Department to discuss enforcing the measure.
“This puts too much power in one person’s hands,” council member James McKittrick complained. “This is written for a rich community.”
He was referring to the Property Maintenance Code (PMC) officer. The PMC officer is responsible for issuing written notices of violations. The code allows the PMC officer to provide a “reasonable time,” not to exceed 60 days to fix the violation.
Matheny said the maintenance standards have been in place for almost 18 years, when the village paid a consultant to rewrite its regulations.
“Most of this is in our zoning code,” zoning inspector Bill Simpson added. “This has to do with health and safety, not nitpicking.”
The code also includes a Property
Maintenance Code Committee consisting of the same five members on the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission. The Committee will hear appeals from property owners and has the authority to “make any modifications, amendments, corrections to the notice of violation, including but not limited to elimination to the notice of violation.”
McKittrick continued to express concerns about the ability of some residents to correct violations.
“You have to have some next step,” former Zoning Commission member Gilbert Arnold said.
“What can we do if someone just says ‘no,’? Simpson asked. “You have to have enforcement… The vast majority are rentals. We’re trying to get the owners to cleanup.”
“You guys need teeth,” council member Beth Warner added.
“We went to our lawyers to get some teeth,” Matheny explained.
Matheny, Simpson and Arnold recounted the many times that village employees and neighbors have stepped up to help residents fix problems when they couldn’t do it themselves or afford it. Matheny also pointed out that village council will hear appeals if property owners aren’t satisfied with the PMC Committee’s decision. He assured McKittrick that the village won’t be pushing around property owners that are unable to comply. Rental property owners are the primarily target.
The ordinance will have two additional reading with the third and final reading and vote set for Tuesday, June 19.
Simpson also reported that the reducing the minimum size of a new home from 1,400 square feet to 1,200 square feet is being considered. It’s difficult to put a 1,400 square foot home on many of the village’s lots, he explained.
Park Superintendent Tom Nebbergall said the new Lancaster Street park should be finished except for paving the parking area in about two weeks.