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"I think it is a whole new beginning for the Ruffin and the county at large," said Jeff Yarbrough of the Tipton Arts Council, the group putting together the event.

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NORTHFIELD — Don McGee didn’t want to believe he would again stand before the city council and update it on the progress it had made on a new city rental ordinance.

But there he was Monday, marking the time in the same way he had over the 18 months the council debated the proposal, before passing it last October.

After last week, when the state supreme court said the city of Morris’ rental code couldn’t supersede the state building code, McGee was back.

“I urge city staff to get on this as soon as possible,” he said, noting changes the ordinance has brought: once-blighted rental properties have been cleaned up and landlords have clamped down on unruly tenants.

While some portions of the ordinance won’t be affected, property maintenance standards will be impacted, said city attorney Maren Swanson.

The 33-page ordinance covers a plethora of topics — everything from parking and the number of rentals allowed per block to front door widths and the height of stair treads.

City Building Official John Brookins said his department stopped inspecting rental units and ended enforcement of the ordinance Friday morning, after learning of the court’s ruling. Without a clear understanding of the decision’s impact on Northfield’s ordinance, Brookins said city officials decided not to enforce the entire ordinance until a thorough review could be completed.

Swanson Monday couldn’t say how long it will take to conduct a page-by-page review of the ordinance. Once completed, city staff will report its findings to the council.

About 800 of the city’s 1,700 rental units have been inspected, said Brookins. City inspectors have estimated each inspection, including site visits and accompanying paperwork, took two and a half hours to complete.

The city has already spent more than $75,000 to craft the rental ordinance. About $30,000 of that is for legal services, from Swanson and other attorneys.

“If there are issues,” said McGee, “let’s address them. I’d hate to see us spend another 18 months and $70,000 to fix it.”



— Suzanne Rook can be reached at srook@northfieldnews.com or 645-1113.

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