Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Keith Edwards firstname.lastname@example.org
AUGUSTA — A new, more tightly focused rewrite of a proposal to require landlords to have their rental units inspected before they could rent them to people receiving General Assistance funds from the city is up for discussion by city councilors Thursday.
The new language, according to City Manager William Bridgeo, is meant to address concerns expressed by councilors and an attorney representing landlords that the first draft was too broad and could have gone too far.
The ordinance, prompted by concerns about unsafe living conditions in some Augusta apartment buildings, would require landlords who want to rent to someone receiving housing assistance from the city to let the city staff inspect the unit to make sure it meets safety codes.
In the last year, the city has declared nine buildings and one floor of a 10th building unsafe for occupancy and ordered the tenants out. The closures of those buildings, which together had 50 rental units, forced the tenants to find new places to live, usually with assistance from their landlords and/or the city.
An initial draft of the ordinance would have required apartment owners to “comply with all federal, state and local licensing as well as current building, land use and Life Safety codes and regulations.”
The new language is more specific, instead requiring building owners renting to people on General Assistance to comply with applicable state laws, National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Codes, Augusta land use regulations and the Augusta safe and sanitary housing ordinance.
“There was some vagueness in the language,” Bridgeo said of the first draft, which was based on an ordinance in Portland.
Brian Winchester, an attorney representing landlords who make up the Capital Area Housing Association, expressed concern at a previous meeting that the language of the ordinance was too broad.
Bridgeo said City Attorney Stephen Langsdorf, Development Director Matt Nazar and codes officials worked to draft the new language, which goes to councilors for discussion at their meeting Thursday.
The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
Councilors are also scheduled to:
• Discuss a contract with Hallowell to provide the neighboring city with ambulance service for the next three years.
Bridgeo said Hallowell officials expressed concern with a provision in the proposed contract requiring Hallowell to reimburse Augusta for ambulance bills incurred by Hallowell residents but not paid by those residents.
Over the last five years, Bridgeo said, those annual costs have ranged from $900 to $4,200. He’s seeking guidance from councilors on whether the contract provision requiring Hallowell to cover the costs should remain in the contract or, as per Hallowell’s request, be removed.
• Hear an update on natural gas construction;
• Hear a presentation from MaineGeneral Medical Center officials regarding the upcoming move from the current hospital on East Chestnut Street to the new hospital in north Augusta; and
• Discuss a $300,000 grant the city is seeking to help fund the redevelopment of the old Cony High School flatiron building by a developer who bought the building from the city .
Keith Edwards — 621-5647