Even though there were no significant changes made to a recommendation by the city’s planning and zoning board to approve, the St. Clair Board of Aldermen kicked a home occupancy permit program draft ordinance back to that group for review.

The request came from Ward 2 Alderman Travis Dierker, who doubles as a member of the city’s planning board.

A draft ordinance outlining minimum housing and life-safety standards was presented to the aldermen during their Sept. 18 meeting. Mayor Ron Blum introduced it by saying, “in your packet, you have a draft of the rental inspections ordinance.”

The city planners worked on the language to establish the rules and regulations of the program for nine months, and in July voted to recommend to the aldermen the minimum housing and life-safety standards that basically apply to rental properties. In August, the aldermen conducted a public hearing on the proposed regulations after the planners conducted a public hearing of their own in June.

“Before we bring it back to us for final approval, let’s bring it back to planning and zoning for approval first,” Dierker said.

During the aldermen’s meeting, City Attorney Kurt Voss said the ordinance was drafted using the recommended rules and regulations from the planning board.

“It’s up to you if you want planning and zoning to look at it again,” he said. “But this draft is what came out of planning and zoning.”

City Building Inspector Jeremy Crowe, who has been instrumental throughout the process of updating St. Clair’s building codes, said planning board Chairman Myrna Turner also requested the review.

“Myrna had requested that the planning and zoning board review the proposed draft to ensure that it meets the provisions set forth at the previous meetings,” he said. “If there are any discrepancies, the planning and zoning board may request corrections prior to resubmitting to the board of aldermen.”

Permit Program

The changes and updates supported by the planners basically target 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 concerns 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 and providing a way for the city to enforce that safety.

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.

Property owners will have a one-year grace period to comply with the ordinance. Crowe said the projected compliance date will be Oct. 1, 2013.

“It will be voluntary to comply before that, but mandatory after that,” he said.

The next planning and zoning board meeting is scheduled to take place on Oct. 8.