The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Sean C. Morgan
Of The New Era 

Council members to select likes, dislikes in ‘livability’ ordinance


April 19, 2016

Members of the city’s Public Safety Committee will pick out the things they like in a “livability” ordinance adopted by Corvallis last year, and City Attorney Robert Snyder will then develop an ordinance proposal for Sweet Home based on that information.

That was the outcome of a discussion about the livability ordinance at the council’s April 12 meeting.

The Corvallis ordinance includes regulations about numerous public nuisances already prohibited by Sweet Home’s ordinances.

Much of it is already in Sweet Home’s building codes, nuisance ordinance and state law, Snyder said.

It also sets regulations for the interior of rentals and owner-occupied homes, prohibiting conditions that lead to mold and harbor vermin as well as conditions for maintenance of windows, doors and other parts of residential structures.

The detailed 48-page ordinance also outlines the abatement process and procedures allowing city officials to inspect homes, on a complaint-driven basis and if the director responsible for enforcing the ordinance suspects a violation. With unwilling occupants, city officials may seek a warrant to inspect homes.

The ordinance describes its purpose as ensuring and protecting the public health, safety and welfare to prevent or reduce urban blight by establishing minimum property maintenance and livability standards for all premises.

Following an initial meeting and time to review the Corvallis ordinance, the Public Safety Committee, a subcommittee of the City Council, took its second look at the ordinance on April 12. Councilors Dave Trask and Bruce Hobbs were present. Councilor Greg Mahler was absent. Mayor Jim Gourley attended the meeting.

Gourley said he has heard many people say they do not support this proposal. That’s in contrast to an ordinance passed in 2014 that addressed “chronic nuisance” properties. In that ordinance, frequent arrests can lead to the city limiting the use of a property.

The Corvallis ordinance has some interesting pieces, Hobbs said, things the council might want to move into Sweet Home’s ordinances.

Given the honest ease with which a tenant can bring action against a landlord, Hobbs said, he doesn’t believe adopting the Corvallis ordinance is necessary to protect tenant’s rights.

Many renters may not be aware of their rights and how to assert them, he said, and the solution may be education.

“There’s a lot of stuff in there; I don’t think we’re going to want to adopt at all,” Trask said.

City Manager Craig Martin said he pulled information from three other jurisdictions with similar ordinances, and to different degrees they compel the city to take some kind of action.

“What degree of involvement do you want?” he asked. “The only other thing I’ve heard that’s potentially problematic is it becomes a leverage point for tenants who are disgruntled with landlords, to try to get them in trouble.”

With the city’s budget sessions about to begin, Trask suggested waiting until afterward before taking the ordinance up again.

“We’re working down a path,” Gourley said. “We don’t need to jump on anything.”

And Sweet Home can glean things from the Corvallis ordinance, Trask said.

Snyder suggested that the committee members circle the things they like with a red pen.

“We’ll put them all together, and we’ll see what we’ve got,” Snyder said.


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