Just one more look.
That was what the St. Clair Planning and Zoning Commission did with the proposed occupancy permit program plan on Monday as the group reviewed and made a few changes to the ordinance drawn up by City Attorney Kurt Voss.
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, who must give the laws final approval, conducted a public hearing on the proposed regulations after the planners conducted a public hearing of their own in June.
But in September, after Voss created the draft ordinance, the aldermen put the ball back in the planners’ court after Chairman Myrna Turner requested a review of the ordinance.
“We have a draft here drawn up by the city attorney,” she told the planners on Monday. “There’s a little bit of difference from what we originally said we wanted to do.”
So, the board went through the draft and questions raised about it from City Inspector Jeremy Crowe.
The changes and updates to the overall occupancy permit program 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 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 and 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.
A sentence added on Monday that originally was included by the planners in their recommendation but left out of the draft ordinance concerns a waiver for a period of up to a year if the property passed an initial inspection and multiple tenants have moved in and out of the residence.
In going through the draft ordinance, the city planners also tweaked some other wording or added or eliminated phrases.
There were minimal changes made before the ordinance was approved by the planners to go back before the aldermen.
The drafted ordinance states that it amends certain sections of the code of ordinances for the city of St. Clair to provide for registration, occupancy permits and inspections of residential rental properties within the city limits and to provide penalties for violations and fees for services.
It does focus on the minimum housing and life-safety standards and includes sections on the powers and duties of the enforcement officer, including fees to be charged; and offenses, fines and punishments.
When the planning board finished its discussion, the motion was made and seconded for Crowe to make the agreed-upon changes and return it to Voss. Voss will be instructed to make the changes in the ordinance, and it again will be presented to the board of aldermen for final approval.
The aldermen are scheduled to review and discuss the ordinance during their upcoming Oct. 15 meeting in city hall.
During the Sept. 18 aldermen meeting, Voss said the ordinance was drafted using the recommended rules and regulations from the planning board.
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.