Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews has made his veto official of an ordinance setting penalties for violation of the city's property maintenance code.
Council could override the veto at tonight's meeting but the three council members who voted against the measure have said they haven't changed their minds, meaning an override can't happen.
"I received a letter from the mayor Friday, explaining his reasons for vetoing the ordinance, and I've forwarded the letter to all council members," said Josh Schlicher, city council president.
Early last week Matthews stated his intention to veto the legislation, which was passed on a narrow 4-3 vote during council's Feb. 20 meeting.
In his letter to Schlicher, the mayor said some members of council seemed to be confused about aspects of the code and the penalties that would be assessed for certain violations.
The measure sets penalties of $150 for an initial property maintenance violation, a $250 fine for a second offense, and any subsequent violations may cost up to $500 for every day the offense is not addressed.
Ordinance vetoed by mayor
- Mayor Joe Matthews has vetoed an ordinance passed Feb. 20 by Marietta City Council that sets penalties for enforcement of the city's property maintenance code.
- The mayor sent a letter explaining his veto to Council President Josh Schlicher Friday.
- At least five council members would have to vote to override the mayor's veto for the legislation to stand.
- Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, who chairs council's planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, could bring the issue up for a vote during tonight's council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the community building at Lookout Park.
Matthews added that the city has an aging population living on fixed incomes and if cited for violations their income would not permit them to comply with the citation.
The letter also stated that Marietta has had a reputation for not being business friendly due to too many building restrictions and laws, and more city regulations could encourage businesses to locate elsewhere.
Other concerns for the mayor included a possible federal flood insurance increase that would also impact businesses.
"We do not need another layer of restrictions," Matthews wrote.
He also questioned whether the International Property Maintenance Code, which is part of the city maintenance code adopted by council last fall, is the right fit for Marietta.
"One size does not fit all," the mayor wrote. "What may work in metro areas may not necessarily work in Marietta."
Matthews added that the ordinance passed Feb. 20 has no provisions for boats, trailers, recreational vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and utility vehicles.
"I am not totally against some type of (property maintenance) enforcement. The current ordinance could be modified," he said. "We should have our own ordinance and enforcement as one size does not fit all."
The mayor said if his veto stands he would like to sit down with representatives from the police and fire departments, the safety-service director and council members to come up with a code the city can live with.
"I've had several e-mails and people calling to say I did the right thing to veto this ordinance," Matthews said. "The IPMC is an 'international' code, but we can adapt a code for Marietta."
Schlicher said Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, who chairs the planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, can bring the ordinance back for a vote during today's council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the community building at Lookout Park.
"It will be on the council meeting agenda for old business," Schlicher said. "If Roger reintroduces the ordinance it will require at least five votes to override the mayor's veto."
Kalter, who has worked for more than 16 months on the property maintenance code, said the enforcement ordinance is the final piece of the puzzle that "gives teeth" to the city property code passed by council last September. Council also adopted legislation last fall creating a property code enforcement department and code enforcement officer position.
"The entire issue with developing a transparent system of enforcement is to improve the health and safety of the city for both residents and visitors. There are examples of dangerous properties that have been unsafe for as long as nine years. Neighbors' documented complaints often fall on deaf ears," Kalter said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.
He said the city health department receives more than 200 nuisance complaints per year about unhealthy and unsafe conditions in both houses and commercial buildings.
"The Marietta Property Maintenance Code is simply about the health and safety of every resident and visitor. Residents and visitors have a right to enjoying a healthy and safe Marietta," Kalter said.
Councilmen Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, and Michael Mullen, I-at large, voted against the penalty-setting legislation on Feb. 20.
McCauley said he has not changed his mind and would oppose the measure again if Kalter brings it up for a vote during today's meeting.
"One of my biggest problems was an attachment to the legislation I received around noon the day of the (Feb. 20) meeting," McCauley said. "The attachment was just a lot of procedural stuff-setting office procedures for things like record-keeping, which should be up to the code enforcement department's administration."
He said the attachment amounts to micro-management and has nothing to do with the core of the ordinance to set penalties for enforcement of the property maintenance code.
"We also need to take a closer look at what the city's current code already has in place for code enforcement," McCauley added.
Vukovic, too, had some concerns about the change Kalter included in the legislation voted on during the Feb. 20 session.
"There were some amendments that showed up in the ordinance that were not discussed in committee," Vukovic said last week.
As chairman of council's finance committee, Vukovic said one amendment of concern would give the authority for budget items to the code enforcement officer instead of the city safety-service director.
"I couldn't agree with it, and wanted to leave the legislation on the table because I believe the community is just not ready for this," he said.
On Wednesday Vukovic said he had not changed his mind about the legislation and would not support overriding the mayor's veto.
Mullen, too, has expressed concern that the ordinance needs more work before he could support it. During a meeting of Kalter's committee on Feb. 18, he said the legislation should be fine-tuned as much as possible prior to passage "so it's not arbitrary and capricious."
On Wednesday Mullen said if a veto override comes up for a vote tonight he would vote to keep the veto in place.
"I've had a lot of calls from constituents and there's so much misunderstanding of the issue that now it's become an emotionally-charged situation, and I don't think we make good decisions in that kind of environment," he said. "I think the process needs a re-set."
Mullen said a number of people have offered to be part of a community-based committee with a neutral facilitator to look at the proposed code and bring it to a consensus that would satisfy a majority of citizens.
"There's been a lot of effort and information put into this, and we need to find a way to make it work," he said.
City law director Paul Bertram III said if council overrides the mayor's veto, the legislation would take effect 30 days after the original passage of the measure on Feb. 20. If the veto is not overridden, council would have to rework, then re-introduce the ordinance at a later date.