Councilors learn that nearly all of Corvallis livability law is already on books in SH

Sean C. Morgan

City Council members were told Tuesday, Oct. 8, that nearly every regulation included in a 2015 Corvallis “livability” ordinance is already duplicated by Sweet Home ordinances, building codes or state law.

Council members have been discussing whether Sweet Home should implement a livability ordinance similar to Corvallis’.

City Attorney Robert Snyder produced a chart for the council showing the provisions of the Corvallis ordinance and comparing them to existing regulations governing buildings in Sweet Home.

The list included more than 140 provisions, ranging from requirements for smoke detectors to building maintenance.

City Council members began looking at the Corvallis ordinance in 2016 as a way to address various deficiencies in housing, particularly rental housing in Sweet Home. The council discussion went on a hiatus in 2016, but the council began looking at the ordinance again earlier this summer.

Snyder previously told the council that much of the regulation on rental property was covered by state landlord-tenant law, and much of the regulation regarding the exterior of owner-occupied housing is already in Sweet Home codes.

City Manager Ray Towry has told the council that if the city begins regulating rentals, it would need to hire staffing.

In the list of requirements in the example code from Corvallis, just five are not repeated in other rules governing housing in Sweet Home.

Among them, neither Sweet Home nor state law has a requirement that residents have approved trash receptacles or a rule to use them. Neither Sweet Home nor state law require residents to subscribe to weekly garbage service.

The city does have a requirement not to accumulate trash outside, and landlords are required to provide trash receptacles with enough room for trash between collection dates.

Four of the five rules with no local or state regulation in Sweet Home concern trash receptacles.

The fifth governs handrails and guardrails. Sweet Home ordinance mandates that handrails and guardrails required by building codes be maintained or replaced as needed.

Neither local law nor state law specifically require every handrail and guardrail to be firmly fastened or maintained in sound condition and good repair.

Snyder said that landlords and tenants frequently take each other to small claims court under the state landlord-tenant law.

The biggest change for Sweet Home, if it were to adopt something like the Corvallis ordinance, would be how tenants respond to problems. Instead of taking landlords to court, they would go to the city government to take action.

The council did not discuss the issue further.

Present were Councilors Cortney Nash, Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Diane Gerson, James Goble and Dave Trask.

In other business, the council:

– Approved an ordinance 6-1, Goble voting no, allowing the use of Class IV all-terrain vehicles, typically called side-by-sides, on city roads. The ordinance does not permit the use of the vehicles on state highways, but it does allow the vehicles to cross state highways.

The ordinance takes effect after 30 days, Nov. 8.

– Approved an ordinance prohibiting the transfer of items between people in vehicles and pedestrians in the vehicular portion of the public right-of-way. The ordinance takes effect after 30 days.

– Approved several updates, with an expediency clause, to the city’s zoning and planning ordinances, which take effect immediately. Among the revisions are updates to the appeals process, notice requirements, joint-use driveways, expansion of permitted conditional uses and appeals by the city manager. The expediency provision means the changes take effect immediately.

– Held the second reading of an ordinance revision that will include the human voice in the city’s noise ordinance. The council voted 6-1, Gourley voting no, to move the proposed ordinance to a third reading and possible approval at the council’s regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 at City Hall, 3225 Main St.

– Held the second reading of an ordinance prohibiting urination and defecation in public places. The ordinance moves on to a third reading and possible decision on Oct. 22.

– Approved an application to the Oregon Department of Land Use and Conservation for a technical assistance grant to help pay for a housing needs assessment, code implementation and a code audit as part of a planning ordinance update. The city has budgeted $15,000, which will serve as matching funds, to the project.