Property maintenance code questioned

After nine months of discussion, Marietta City Council is apparently poised to adopt the 2012 version of the International Property Maintenance Code. But during Tuesday’s meeting of council’s planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee some residents expressed concern that the code might infringe on personal property rights.

“A lot of people don’t know what this is about, and what happens if you don’t comply with the code?” Nathan McLeish asked the committee members.

City law director Paul Bertram III said enforcement of the code is complaint-driven, meaning someone would have to file a complaint with the city about a property in order for any action to be taken.

“But if the owner doesn’t comply, a civil complaint could be filed against the property owner or he could be billed for any improvements the city has to make (like mowing or cleaning up a property),” he said. “The problem now is that there’s no officer appointed to enforce the property code.”

Committee chairman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, has been advocating for council to update the city’s current property code, which is based on the 1998 International Property Maintenance Code, to reflect the 2012 IPMC.

“We’re not looking to invade people’s privacy with this,” he said. “We just want to promote a reasonable quality of life for everyone in our community.”

Kalter said one constituent told him her apartment was full of roaches, the carpeting was threadbare, and she had to insert her pinky finger through a hole in order to pull the front door open.

He added that cars are parking on sidewalks, and he had seen a child playing around at least one vehicle that had been propped up on blocks in a yard for months.

Kalter said he has filed several nuisance complaints about such property issues, but it can take months and even years before anything is done.

“Right now nuisance complaints are filed with the city health department,” he said, adding that the health department may then forward the complaint to another city department or other agency that can deal with the problem.

But Kalter said once the complaint leaves the health department it can be hard to track, and he hopes to help simplify that process so that citizens can know what action is being taken to address their nuisance complaints.

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, said updating the IPMC alone would not solve the problem of property owners who aren’t in compliance with the current code and choose to leave their proper

ties in unsafe or dilapidated condition.

“It doesn’t fix the real problem, which is enforcement,” he said. “I think this is a good first step, but the main problem of enforcement is still there.”

Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, agreed, but noted council should first adopt the 2012 IPMC.

“We need to pass that ordinance first, but the second part of this is to appoint a code enforcement officer,” he said. “And we would want someone who knows the code.”

Council president Walt Brothers said the easy part of the process would be to update the current code to the 2012 IPMC.

“That we can do right away,” he said. “But the second part, the enforcement process, is deeply flawed. I think we need to give that to the city administration and let them develop a process then bring it back to council.”

The committee members agreed to proceed with the process of changing the current code to reflect the 2012 IPMC.

Kalter said he would like to have that measure completed and a code enforcement process in place by the beginning of 2014.

In other business Tuesday, members of council’s lands, buildings and parks committee agreed to allow the city hall renovation project to proceed to the final design phase after receiving input from the city police department.

Officer A.J. Linscott said the department had reviewed the latest blueprints of the proposed renovation and agreed with the reconfiguration of the police department facilities.

Those plans include moving most of the police offices to the second floor of city hall, although the dispatch area and police clerk would remain on the first floor of the building. The plans would also expand the men’s and women’s locker rooms and shower facilities that are located in the basement of city hall.

“We do have some concerns about having lockers in the basement and offices on the second floor, but believe this is a workable plan,” Linscott said.

Also on Tuesday, Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineering department, asked for permission to advertise for bids and enter into a contract for the resurfacing of the Parking Partners Lot on Second Street.

Lambert said the engineer’s estimate to put a 1 1/4-inch asphalt surface on the lot would be around $71,911. He said the work could probably begin sometime in July.