Springfield’s new rental ordinance on hold for vote
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | July 02,2013
SPRINGFIELD — There will be a special town meeting next month for a vote on the new rental registry ordinance.
Select Board member David Yesman turned in a petition last week that called for a repeal of the new ordinance, and to have a vote on the ordinance.
Yesman said Monday that the Springfield Select Board would meet July 15 to discuss when to have the special vote, but he said under the town charter the vote must be held within 60 days of the submission of the successful petition.
Yesman said that a group of Springfield landlords helped him gather signatures calling for a vote on the ordinance, He said the group collected 405 signatures, while only 334 signatures, representing 5 percent of the registered voters in Springfield, were needed.
But Yesman said there was widespread ignorance about the new ordinance, and he said he and others spent on average 15 minutes with each voter to explain the ordinance.
He said the petition drive represented 102 man-hours of citizen effort. Others helping to collect signatures were Tom Bishop, Dan Gray, Walter Pluss, Don Bishop, Dave Thurber, Bill Hanley, John Jasinski, and Bill Morlock, who is executive director of the Springfield Housing Authority. All but Don Bishop are landlords in town, Yesman said. The housing authority is the largest landlord in town.
Yesman said the group, which had spoken out against the ordinance before it was adopted, only had 44 days to collect the necessary signatures.
The new rental registry was designed to get the town a list of all the rental properties in Springfield and also help push landlords to improve their apartments. Under the ordinance, apartments would have to register within five years, and face a total of three different inspections, including an inspection by state fire/safety officials, once registered.
But Yesman and others had argued that the ordinance was unnecessary and would put too much of a financial burden on Springfield landlords, because inspections invariably lead to required changes.
Springfield Town Manager Robert Forguites said that until the issue had been resolved, the new ordinance would be on hold. The Select Board approved the new ordinance on a 3-2 vote, with Yesman and Select Board member Stephanie Gibson opposed. Gibson wanted another public hearing on the ordinance.
Forguites said the Select Board is holding a special meeting Tuesday to set the 2013 tax rate, but that the issue would not be taken up then.
Forguites expected the board would ultimately choose a date in the middle of August for the special meeting.