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Landlords group turns in petition

association seeks a referendum on the city's new rental registration ordinance.

association seeks a referendum on the city's new rental registration ordinance.

November 22, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County on Thursday submitted to the City of Hagerstown a petition with 4,297 signatures in an attempt to take the city's rental registration ordinance to referendum.

Thursday was the deadline to submit the petition, which is 407 pages long.

The association needed at least 3,400 signatures of registered voters. The number of signatures needed is 20 percent of the city's registered voters.

The association wants the public to vote on the ordinance, which would charge landlords $45 per year per rental unit to finance regular rental property inspections. City rental properties currently are inspected only in response to complaints.

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The Hagerstown City Council and city staff say the program is needed to improve the quality of housing in the city.

The Landlords and Property Owners Association says the ordinance unfairly blames all rental property owners for the actions of a few bad ones. Landlords also cite worries that the program will cause undue hardships if the pettiest of violations is enforced.

The city will deliver the petition to the Washington County Board of Elections today, a city official has said.

If the Board of Elections confirms that the petition has enough valid signatures, the city cannot implement the ordinance until after the issue is voted on, either in a special election or in the next regularly scheduled city election in March 2005.

All five City Council members, who unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance on Oct. 22, have said they would opt to call a special election if the issue goes to referendum.

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