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Planners hear pros and cons of Waynesboro rental inspection program

December 11, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The startup of a new rental property inspection program in the Borough of Waynesboro would be a significant undertaking, the borough's planning commission was told Monday.

A draft ordinance for the program states that the borough would charge a registration fee, then a reoccurring licensing fee once a building is inspected.

With more than 2,000 rental units in the borough, property owners could be scrambling to have units inspected in the first year to avoid paying the higher "registration" fee again, officials said.

Currently, the registration fee is proposed at $50 and the licensing fee at $25 to $30.

"It would behoove the owner to get their place inspected sooner rather than later, especially if you have a large number of units," said Melissa Dively, who serves as the planning commission's solicitor.

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One way to avoid a large influx of requests would be to allow approved, outside agencies to do inspections as a supplement to borough staff, she said.

Dan Sheffler, code enforcement officer, estimated that one inspection would take him an hour to an hour and a half.

Rental inspections would add considerable work for Sheffler every year, even after the initial sign-ups, according to Stephen Monn, a member of the planning commission.

"You'd have to do seven or eight hundred inspections a year on a rotating basis," he said.

"Would this apply to public housing (like) Mount Vernon Terrace or Harbaugh Avenue?" asked Allen Porter, a borough council member in attendance at Monday's planning commission meeting.

The ordinance is written so that a unit is exempt only if a federal or state authority has inspected it using more stringent guidelines, Dively said.

Paul Gunder, a local Realtor, spoke on behalf of both Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. and the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors Inc.

"We want to go on record saying we really endorse this initiative," Gunder said.

However, he said, the per-unit fees might be too high as proposed.

"We feel anything more than $25 per unit would be excessive," Gunder said.

Monn said the challenge will be to balance the fee with the personnel costs associated with administering the program.

"You don't want to impose the cost on the general taxpayers and you don't want to overcharge the landlords and make it seem like a penalty," he said.

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