Tempers flare over rental ordinance
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | December 11,2013
SPRINGFIELD – Tempers were a tad short Monday night when discussion of the rewriting of the proposed rental registry ordinance — which was rejected by voters in August — came up.
Selectman Michael Knoras, who along with Selectwoman Stephanie Gibson Thompson make up the board’s ordinance subcommittee, said the rewritten ordinance was ready for a first reading — the first step toward the town adopting it.
But that drew a spirited rebuke from Selectman David Yesman, who had led the successful charge against the ordinance last summer. He said that Springfield landlords, who in general were against the ordinance, were promised another meeting with the ordinance subcommittee before it went back to the full Select Board.
Yesman, himself a landlord, accused Knoras of bad faith, among other things, and said the landlords had been promised a second meeting. He said Knoras was proposing an “end-run” around the landlords.
Knoras brought up the issue under “new business” and the issue wasn’t warned.
“There’s a lot of landlords out there waiting for the second meeting,” Yesman said, at one point accusing Knoras of “sneaking behind everybody’s back.”
But Knoras and Thompson said there hadn’t been a need for a second meeting, since there wasn’t a change in the ordinance from the first meeting. The landlords are free to come to the first reading, the two Select Board members said.
But Yesman was vehement that a promise had been made and broken.
Sensing a serious disagreement, Select Board Chairman Kristi Morris and Town Manager Robert Forguites quickly said a second meeting could be held next week, which the landlords were welcome to attend, and the first formal hearing on the revised, proposed ordinance could be held later. The Select Board’s next regular meeting is Dec. 23, and the month of January is expected to be taken up with budget reviews.
Yesman said having the first reading of the new ordinance Dec. 23 was too soon.
“I think that’s pulling the trigger too fast,” he said. “There should be a second subcommittee meeting.”
Yesman said after the meeting that many of the landlords in town feel there’s a double-standard being applied to rental properties and that residential homes should also have to register. The registry’s main purpose is to give information to the fire department.
He said a simple registry was acceptable to the landlords he’s working with, but that the administrative zoning officer should not be involved.
“My objection is that this is all on the landlord’s shoulders,” said Yesman, who has five rental apartments in town.
Forguites later said he hoped to have next week’s rental registry meeting next Monday or Tuesday.firstname.lastname@example.org