A public meeting for Warsaw City residents to review a draft ordinance regarding neighborhood preservation/rental registration ordinance Monday evening was attended by mostly owners of rental property. There were approximately 40 filling the council chamber room.
Many of the rental property owners focused on the state statue which called for fines of up to $5,000 for violations, the right to inspect, a fee to register all rental properties. A few homeowners had the opportunity to speak in the 2 1/2 hour discussion. They questioned which parts of the ordinance pertained to homeowners and which sections pertained to rental properties.
Throughout the meeting Jeremy Skinner, city planner, reiterated the ordinance was just a draft and the purpose of the meeting was to work on that ordinance based on what the community wanted. He also explained numerous times the fine listed by the state is the maximum, there was no set amount.
However many appeared to be interpreting the proposal as unchangeable, ready for approval and unwilling to listen to what was explained.
While individuals were asked to state their names and street of residence, many spoke without providing that information and consistently interrupting those who were speaking.
Skinner stated he has been meeting with a rental property committee on wording in the rental section of the ordinance. He explained he was not yet prepared to hold any public discussion until that section was completed and changes made. However calls from neighborhood associations were received questioning the proposal.
Questions regarding the ambiguity of wording in the ordinance were raised. Skinner stated the ambiguity is what needs to be clarified taking the subjectivity out of existing state and city codes. “A lot is going to change. This is just the framework,” stated Skinner. “There will be more meetings. We will make changes, have another meeting.”
Questions were also raised why have the ordinance when covered by state statute and city codes. Others questioned if the ordinance could be separated into two — one for rental properties the other for homeowners. Again ambiguity of those existing statues and codes along with redundancy of some regulations were stated as reasons for the proposal.
Warsaw/Wayne Township Fire Territory Fire Chief Mike Brubaker spoke up concerning the registration of rental properties. He noted it is the responsibility of a landlord to provide a safe living environment for tenants. He noted a home could be divided into five apartments all running off a 200 amp service. “That is substandard,” he said. Registration and inspection would detect such matters.
He also voiced a concern of responding to a fire at a rental property, known to only have four apartments, but discovering there are five with no egress. “When lives and safety become an issue, then it’s my concern,” stated Brubaker.
Warsaw City Councilman Jeff Grose also reiterated what Skinner had expressed throughout the evening — “there will be no ordinance until it is supported. This isn’t an ordinance it is a draft. We’re putting something together for consideration.” Grose also noted the city was a 100 miles away from having such an ordinance.
The date of a future meeting was not announced.