Council evicts rental registration bill

SPEAKING UP — Weirton City Council hears from a local property owner during Monday’s meeting. As part of the meeting, council voted 3-4 against the second reading of a proposed rental registration ordinance. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — Efforts to enact a rental registration ordinance in the city came to a halt Monday after several residents, and some members of council, expressed concerns with the proposal.

Council voted down the second reading 3-4, with Councilmembers George Ash, Enzo Fracasso and Douglas Jackson voting in favor, and Councilman Terry Weigel, Fred Marsh, Michael Adams and Tim Connell coming out against.

The first reading was held in April, where it was passed unanimously by council.

Connell, Ash, Jackson and Fracasso had been listed as sponsoring members of council for the ordinance.

John Barone was among the residents speaking out against the ordinance, citing state and federal law which he said allows residents, including tenants of rental property, to deny entry to a residential property.

“You have a constitutional right to refuse admission,” Barone said.

Barone also noted Pittsburgh had passed its own similar legislation, but hasn’t been able to implement it because of legal challenges.

Frank Kuster said, with the city’s business and occupation tax and police and fire service fee already in place, he feels the proposed ordinance would place a bigger burden on rental owners.

“We’ve got to jump through hoop after hoop just to make it,” he said.

Others expressed concern the proposal was adding extra levels of government or repeating existing regulations.

Mayor Harold Miller said there was no intention of enacting new fees on property owners, recalling the city had enacted a pilot rental registration program in the city’s fourth ward many years ago, and the proposal would have expanded that idea.

“You’re not paying any fees. You’re just filing some forms,” Miller said. “We want you to succeed. We’ll work with you, but take care of your properties.”

Ash also said there were no fees involved with the registration, or the initial inspection.

Weigel, however, reminded council and the audience the city recently had expanded responsibilities of the city’s Inspections Department to be more active instead of reacting only to complaints, and feels that should be allowed time before taking further action.

“We hope that change will make a difference,” Weigel said.

Adams also expressed concern, saying he was not certain the ordinance would address everything it was intended to.

Marsh agreed.

“I think there’s a lot here to bite off at one time,” Marsh said.

Jackson, who also owns rental properties in the city, said if the ordinance was to pass, he would want his properties to be the first inspected as a way to show they are safe and livable.

“It’s not going to cost me a dime,” Jackson said. “I think it’s pretty much common sense.”

Near the end of the meeting, Mark Miller, director of planning and development, asked council for direction on the issue, noting his staff had put in a lot of work in researching the proposal.

“If there were questions, we could have done a work session,” Miller said, noting of the top 10 largest cities in West Virginia, only Weirton and Beckley do not have such an ordinance in place.

Both Ash and Jackson said the issue would be revisited.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

COMMENTS