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Section of livability code will probably be scrapped

March 30, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

The Washington County Commissioners likely will scrap a proposed section of a code that would establish maintenance standards for owner-occupied homes, County Attorney Richard Douglas said Wednesday.

A day earlier, about 25 residents attended a public hearing on the issue. All of the 13 people who spoke at the hearing strongly opposed the section, with many saying it was an infringement on property rights.

Douglas said the section, which was proposed to be added to the Washington County Livability Code, didn't need to be there because it is not part of a state code that deals with similar issues.

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As of early Wednesday afternoon, Douglas said he spoke with two commissioners who agreed the section should be removed. He said he planned to discuss it with the rest of the commissioners.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he was one of the commissioners with whom Douglas spoke, and that he supports taking the section out. Munson said County Administrator Rodney Shoop also told him the section would be removed.

Permits and Inspections Department staff members recommended the section be added, Douglas said.

The code also addresses maintenance standards for rental units. Those standards are intended to protect tenants by making sure they're living in safe, clean units.

The code is intended to "protect the public health, safety and welfare in residential structures and premises," the code states.

Permits and Inspections Director Daniel DiVito has said county officials wouldn't drive around the county looking for violations, but would respond if they received complaints.

He also said the code hasn't been updated since it was approved in 1988.

Local jurisdictions are required to adopt a code that meets the minimum state regulations or enforce the state's code.

Tom Berry, president of Citizens to Protect Rights, said by phone Wednesday that the group and residents were trying to get the section dealing with owner-occupied homes removed.

Berry, who spoke at Tuesday's public hearing, said it appeared to him that the commissioners weren't expecting such opposition to the proposed revisions.

"It sounds like the County Commissioners have finally read it," Berry said. "I had the feeling Tuesday that they had not done their homework."

Berry on Tuesday told the commissioners it was none of their business if he owned a home that contained some rotting wood or broken windows.

Douglas said the commissioners will hold a workshop on the Livability Code on April 25.

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