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Council amends rental ordinance

May 26, 2010|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

HAGERSTOWN -- Proposed changes to Hagerstown's rental facilities ordinance divided residents Tuesday, but the five Hagerstown City Council members stood behind the measure as one.

The council unanimously voted to amend the ordinance, decreasing some requirements and modifying others.

According to city documents, changes to the ordinance include decreasing the frequency of exterior and interior inspections, and lengthening the period that newly constructed rentals are exempt from inspections.

It also included accepting Hagerstown Housing Authority's interior inspections and requiring occupants to be notified before an interior inspection.

Many people in the audience indicated their support for the amendment by a show of hands when prompted by a man who spoke in favor of the changes.

"It is our position that this effort on the part of council is a positive step in the right direction as the pendulum moves back to the center in this issue," said Roger Fairbourn, a local Realtor.

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This is a necessary step, said Jim Stone, a local property owner.

Judy Wheeler, of the Neighborhoods 1st program, said the changes would loosen rental-licensing requirements, diminish the property management code and move the city into territory that is "troubling."

"It is troubling because the message indicates that neighborhoods don't come first," she said.

Wheeler questioned the transparency of previous discussions on the topic, but was refuted by Councilmen Lewis C. Metzner and Forrest W. Easton.

"I take great exception to the accusation of the lack of transparency," Easton said.

"At no time did this body meet with the (Landlords and Property Owners Association of Washington County)," Metzner said. "There were no closed-door meetings by this board."

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he also spoke with people on both sides of the issue.

The unanimous vote met with many smiles from the audience, including those who spoke about the benefits of the change.

No renters addressed the council on the issue.

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