Property maintenance code updated

In spite of objections from a few citizens, Marietta City Council on Thursday unanimously adopted the 2012 version of the Interational Property Maintenance Code that will replace the 1998 version of the code under which the city is currently operating.

The updated version of the IPMC officially takes effect 30 days after the ordinance passed Thursday is signed by Mayor Joe Matthews.

Three people urged the council members not to approve the legislation due to property rights concerns.

“I’m very much against the advancement of any additional government oversight,” said local businessman and resident Glenn Newman, adding that Americans across the nation are losing rights due to government intrusion.

The IPMC, followed by many municipal governments across the country, provides standards designed to promote safe housing and help eliminate blighted properties. The 2012 version of the code includes some tightening of standards from the 1998 measure.

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, and chairman of the planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, noted one change involves junk cars.

“The 1998 code says you may have a junk car on your property, but the new code does not allow any junk cars,” he said.

Kalter said the ordinance passed by council Thursday is simply updating the property code the city has already been operating under for the last 15 years.

“We started talking about this last October and have had extensive meetings with the public about it, and copies (of the 2012 IPMC) have been available for reading at the council clerk’s office and the county library,” he said. “Our next step will be enforcement. That was our main problem with the 1998 version. There was no enforcement for violations of the code.”

Ohio Street resident James Wilson also spoke against passage of the IPMC update.

“I understand that the city has issues with people maintaining their properties, but this code goes way beyond that,” he said. “You need to be careful that the laws you’re developing don’t conflict with other city ordinances and disregard people’s property rights.”

Marietta resident Diane Crandall said the city already has enough property laws.

“If you have a problem with living conditions in this town you should first enforce the laws that are already on the books,” she said. “And second, you should go after the slumlords. I strongly urge you to vote against this.”

Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward said he, too, had heard concerns from some citizens about adoption of the updated IPMC.

“I’m on the front lines, taking phone calls from concerned constituents about this,” he said. “But when neighbors are not reasonable about keeping their properties up the city has no other way to address that.”

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, also noted that there had been extensive discussions about updating the property maintenance code.

“I don’t think any of us wants to create a bigger government to intrude on people’s property rights,” he said. “And anything council does can also be undone. But it’s not our intent to intrude on individual rights.”

Mullen added that although the ordinance updates the city’s current property maintenance code, it does not provide for enforcement or penalties for violation of the IPMC.

Following council’s unanimous vote approving the IPMC update, council president Walt Brothers said the development of a code enforcement officer position and the setting of penalties for code violations would be the next steps for council and the city administration regarding the ordinance passed Thursday.