By Michael Green Fonte
Elkins City Council made local history Thursday by unanimously passing a rental registration ordinance on its second and final reading.
More than four years ago, Council attempted to pass an ordinance that would have meant all landlords had to register their properties and allow for city inspection every three years. The proposal was met with vehement opposition by landlords, saying it had no purpose and would only increase their costs that would be passed on to renters.
"This is the third time that council has considered the residential registration," said City Clerk Sutton Stokes, "and the two previous times they went down in defeat."
Some may think the new law is intrusive and violates privacy but the city believes this is the best way for rental units to be safe. Otherwise, so-called slumlords could continue to escape repairs of dangerous living conditions.
The law, known as Ordinance 171, states that no unit can be rented unless a written application for a Certificate of Use and Occupancy has been filed, or a valid Certificate of Use and Occupancy has been issued for the unit by the city's building inspector.
Within six years - as opposed to the 3 years in previous attempts - of Ordinance 171's passage, the building inspector will inspect all units constructed before the passage of the
If a unit passes inspection, the owner will be charged a $30 compliance inspection fee and receive the certificate. A multi-unit building will be charged a maximum fee of $150 regardless of the number of units. Violations of Ordinance 171 can result in fines and penalties.
Council members explained the ordinance is necessary to ensure the safety of Elkins residents.
"I know of one rental where the back porch is caved in and the front porch is completely removed with holes - large holes that people could fall in," 3rd Ward Councilman Mark Scott said at the Sept. 19 meeting. "If someone were to get hurt, a child to get hurt, then they're going to come back to us ... that's why I'm supporting the passage of this ordinance."
"Even without the liability aspect, I feel that it's our humane duty," said 4th Ward Councilwoman Nanci Bross-Fregonara.
Also during Thursday's meeting:
- Council passed the second and final reading of Ordinance 172, repealing and revising existing city code regulating the location of video lottery establishments.
The ordinance lists distance requirements for limited video lottery establishments. However, the final paragraph of the ordinance exempts any limited video lottery establishment on the property known as the Tygart Valley Mall from the previous listed distance requirements.
A video lottery establishment on the Tygart Valley Mall property must only follow the requirement of maintaining a distance of 1,000 feet from another video lottery establishment.
- Council voted to make a budget revision related to an engineering study for the Wilson Street swinging bridge.
While council members voiced concerns about the bridge's current state, Mayor Van Broughton made assurances that the bridge is safe.
"The inspections are to find out if repairs are needed and we need to apply for grants," Broughton told The Inter-Mountain after the meeting.
- Council authorized a budget revision and the purchase of a new Ford Explorer for the Elkins Fire Department at a cost of $29,990. The vehicle will be used by Fire Chief Tom Meader. The funding will come from the Coal Severance Fund.
- Operations Manager Bob Pingley announced the city's annual leaf pick up will begin Monday. He reminded citizens to keep their leaf piles behind the curb so that leaves don't clog street drains.