Rental ordinance approval process to begin again
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | April 25,2013
SPRINGFIELD — A new ordinance that would require all Springfield landlords to register their apartments and subject them to state and local inspections went through so many revisions this week that the Springfield Select Board has to restart the formal approval process.
The board will re-warn the second formal hearing or review of the ordinance, which has been months in the making.
Kristi Morris, chairman of the Select Board, said he was concerned with some of the language in the ordinance, and he said the ordinance had inaccurate legal citations. He also said he was concerned with the number of inspections to which the apartments would be subjected.
Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda and Town Zoning Administrator Bill Kearns went through the ordinance, debating the meaning of language.
At one point, the discussion had bogged down so badly that Town Manager Robert Forguites suggested that the ordinance be sent back to the town’s Ordinance Committee for another review.
But Ankuda, who had been working on the draft for months, pushed ahead, outlining the changes the board wanted for clarification, thus avoiding sending the ordinance back to the drawing board.
Under the plan, landlords must register their properties with the town, and the state Division of Fire Safety would inspect each apartment within five years. The apartment would also be inspected by the town’s health officer, a post which is currently held by Fire Chief Russell Thompson. Finally, landlords would have to get a certificate of occupancy from Kearns’ office.
“It’s meant to be mechanical from Bill’s end,” said Ankuda.
The rental registry ordinance is viewed as one tool of getting a better idea of the number of apartments in Springfield, and putting pressure on out-of-town landlords to keep their apartments in better condition and with more responsible tenants.
Town officials have said the town has a greater proportion of low-income housing compared to any other town in Windsor County, which in their minds leads to increased crime and other extra costs.
Selectman David Yesman, who is a landlord, voiced concern about the ordinance, saying that having multiple inspections would inevitably and unfairly lead to multiple and expensive lists of needed improvements.
Kearns said he is interested in making sure people are building what they say they are building on their permits, and that there is an accurate list of apartments for health and safety reasons.
The town is not adopting a building code, Kearns said, but only inspecting for health and safety concerns.
The proposed ordinance will undergo another review May 13, with Fire Chief Thompson in attendance.