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Heavily debated rental ordinance approved Judge Tobin swears in new police officer
GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent
, Staff Writer
After months of debate, two public hearings and multiple revisions, Lititz Borough Council Tuesday night voted to enact the borough’s first rental inspection ordinance.
A first hearing produced a number of changes to the initially proposed ordinance. Most notably, it puts the enforcement aspects of the ordinance on the shoulders of local police. It also adds an additional 30 day period to allow property owners the fullest opportunity to bring properties up to code.
Former Lititz Mayor Russell Pettyjohn was on hand for Tuesday night’s meeting. Addressing council, Pettyjohn sought to gain a better understanding of what the new ordinance would mean and what it might cost.
"I think there are still some questions about this," noted Pettyjohn, who said he wanted to gain a much better understanding of the measure.
Council member Doug Bomberger explained that while the final costs for licensing and inspections has not yet been set by council, current figures favored by council members would cost landlords $40 per rental unit per year for licensing. Inspections would take place every third year and would cost $50.
Council President Karen Weibel further explained the matter to Pettyjohn.
"If voted on tonight, this ordinance would go into effect on July 1," stated Weibel. "At that point landlords would have paperwork mailed to them. Property owners would then have until the end of September to apply for a license. The borough would be divided into thirds with inspections rotating every third year starting in January, 2014. So, you would have a lot of time to comply."
Unlike the previous hearing, only two people were on hand to offer up testimony regarding the proposed ordinance.
Chris Strayer from North Oak Street was the second person to deliver testimony on the ordinance. Strayer questioned council on the likelihood that council may, at some point in the future, enact such an inspection ordinance on local businesses. His concern: that many of the borough’s businesses were housed in buildings in excess of 150 years old, with rental units subjected to the inspection process located above.
"We all know that fire travels up," noted Strayer.
Weibel explained that council had no plans to consider such action in the future. She added that while currently the borough’s retail businesses were not subjected to inspections or licensing, many had to comply with other regulations, inspections and requirements not required of residential rental units.
"The majority of the buildings in the borough are over 50 years old," noted Weibel. "And yes many businesses are in buildings that are 150 and 200 years old. We recognize this is a challenge, but this speaks a lot to being a consumer issue. With (residential) rental units, someone is taking money in exchange for giving someone a place to live. With retail businesses, someone is taking money in exchange for a good or service."
That has always been the crux of the matter with regard to the new ordinance. Like so many other municipalities which have ordinances in place with regard to residential rental units, Lititz borough leaders have been concerned about assuring that basic issues of public safety are addressed. The new ordinance intends to give those paying to rent a home in the borough assurance that their homes are free from structural, electrical and plumbing issues, that all systems are safe and functional. Homes will also be inspected to make sure each has working smoke detectors, windows and doors that operate properly, that residents have a safe way to exit the building in an emergency and that there are no issues which would affect the tenants’ health.
"Most of the stores I assume are not owner occupied," said Strayer. "I grew up working in one of those stores and I remember how scary the basements were. I’m pretty sure there are not any hoarding issues that the ordinance would address, but there still could be fire hazards."
In other borough business, District Judge Ed Tobin had the honor swearing in a new police officer. And that officer, Justin Miller, is a familiar face within the borough.
Miller is a 2005 Warwick High School graduate. Following his high school graduation, Miller was hired in 2005 to work for the Lancaster City Police Department as a police cadet/civilian aide while he was attending college. In May of 2007, Miller earned an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College. In June of 2007, he was hired by Lancaster City Police as an officer, where he worked the patrol division until April of this year.
"I applied to the Lititz Police Department and on May 6 was hired," Miller said Tuesday night. "I was born and raised in Lititz. I was an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 44 based in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lititz."
Miller is also a volunteer with the Lititz Fire Company. In his free time, he enjoys riding motorcycles, jet skiing, camping, hiking and spending time with family and friends.
And finally, it was announced that there is currently an opening on the borough planning commission. Any borough resident interested in volunteering is asked to contact borough hall to complete the application paperwork.
More BOROUGH COUNCIL, page A16