About a year after it first came up for discussion, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance Monday night establishing new rules and regulations for a rental occupancy permit program within the city.

The issue first was brought to the city’s planning and zoning table last fall and since then was volleyed back and forth between the planners and aldermen to tweak the language and finalize the procedures included.

Compliance with the ordinance will be voluntary until Oct. 1, 2013, at which time it will become mandatory.

“Planning and zoning had this before them for (several) months,” Mayor Ron Blum said in introducing the ordinance for discussion among the aldermen Monday night. “There have been numerous discussions, decisions and compromises.

“It has been run through the washing machine several times.”

When Blum asked if City Administrator Rick Childers had anything to add regarding the ordinance and its details, Childers responded by saying, “I believe this has been discussed at length.”

The aldermen had no questions on Monday, and the ordinance quickly was passed unanimously.

City Inspector Jeremy Crowe and Ward 2 Alderman Travis Dierker, who also serves as a member of the planning and zoning board, both gave a sigh of relief when the vote was taken. Both of those men, as well as members of the city’s planning and zoning board, have been instrumental in formulating the rental occupancy permit program.

The aldermen first reviewed a draft of the ordinance in September after City Attorney Kurt Voss had taken final recommendations from the planners. The aldermen kicked it back to planning and zoning after Chairman Myrna Turner wanted to review it one more time as prepared.

The planning board again reviewed the document during its October meeting, and gave its final blessing.

Later in October, Voss told the aldermen that the proposed ordinance should be ready for final review and potential adoption this month.

The Ordinance

The planners spent nine months creating the rules and regulations for the permit program, which focuses on minimum housing and life-safety standards for rental units within the city limits.

In July, the panel originally voted to send the rules and regulations to the board of aldermen. In August, the aldermen conducted a public hearing on the proposed regulations after the planners conducted a public hearing of their own in June. In September, after Voss created the draft ordinance, the aldermen put the ball back in the planners’ court after Turner requested her group give it the final review.

So, the board went through the draft and questions raised about it from Crowe.

The ordinance basically targets rental units in an effort to upgrade the standards within the city limits. The majority of the regulations follow already established city ordinances.

Current minimum housing standards for St. Clair residents are included in Chapter 12-1/2, Article II of the city’s code of ordinances. Those minimum standards include sections on sanitary facilities and conditions; food preparation facilities; living space requirements; heating and cooling requirements; lead-based paint compliance; and structural condition and safety.

Minimum life-safety standards target structural safety, electrical safety, fire safety, carbon monoxide safety and general safety. Those standards are outlined in Chapter 6-61 of the city’s code of ordinances which concern the definition of a dangerous building.

The city also has adopted the updated 2009 International Property Maintenance Code.

Planning board members as well as Crowe have said the main idea behind revising the program is making sure residences are safe for each occupant who lives in them while providing a way for the city to enforce that safety.

Fines are built into the penalty portion of the program as are property inspections. There are also fees to apply for the inspections as well as to have them recorded at city hall. 

Permit Program

A $25 fee will be charged for each inspection, and a $5 recording fee will be assessed each time a dwelling changes occupants.

Landlords will need to keep the city’s building department informed of any change in tenants as well as scheduling an inspection if one is needed.

Failure to obey the regulations could result in financial penalties of up to $100 per day.

An inspector will examine the interior and exterior of the property for structural soundness as well as safety issues.