Williamsport eyes holding landlords responsible for tenants' nuisances

October 08, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

WILLIAMSPORT — The town of Williamsport is still considering a nuisance ordinance.

The mayor and town council members on Monday reviewed a “property nuisance abatement” ordinance from Elkton in Cecil County, Md., as a possible guide, continuing a discussion from last month.

Edward Kuczynski, Williamsport’s town attorney, said the Elkton ordinance targets property owners and holds them responsible for the activities of people who rent from them.

That would not affect what people do in public, Kuczynski noted — a problem that some council members hinted at, without specifics, during the discussion.

Kuczynski said an Elkton-style ordinance is a way to shut down illegal activities, such as prostitution or a methamphetamine lab.

“I’m not sure targeting the property owners is the way to do it,” Kuczynski said, “but sometimes you have to strike.”

Councilwoman Maya Haines said local business owners have complained about people standing in front of their shops.

But Kuczynski said the government can’t target people who are “unsavory.”

“They’d have to shut down New York City, if that was the case,” he quipped, adding that he sometimes feels uncomfortable in public places.

“You can’t do anything about the look of the person,” he said.

“It’s not the look of the person,” Haines replied. “It’s what they’re representing.”

She later added: “Or what they’re holding.”

Kuczynski said the police can step in if a person is doing something illegal.

Some of the vague references were to Daniel Lavasseur, who was sitting in the front row of the meeting room on Monday.

Town officials said Lavasseur frequently stands in front of the doors of local businesses, waving a large rebel flag.

In the middle of the meeting, police led Lavasseur into the hallway and arrested him.

Deputy 1st Class Carl Witmer of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said later during a phone interview that Lavasseur was wanted on a warrant for destruction of property for allegedly slashing tires at Brookmeade Apartments.

Witmer said he found out in advance that Lavasseur was going to be at the meeting. A Maryland state trooper assisted him with the arrest.

The town council agreed that Kuczynski should look more into the possibilities of a nuisance ordinance.

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