By Allen Edmonds
Two weeks after a proposed rental property inspection ordinance went down to defeat on second reading before the Belton City Council, Ward 3 Council member Stephanie Davidson asked for further discussion on the proposal.
The request came at the conclusion of an otherwise brief and uneventful meeting on Tuesday, with mostly routine business on the agenda. The council approved three formal measures approving final development plans for Shady Lane, which is being rebuilt as a planned unit development for the 55-and-older market just north of North Avenue and east of North Scott.
Also on the agenda for Tuesday was an executive session following the public meeting to “discuss matters pertaining to individually identifiable personnel records, performance ratings or records pertaining to employees or applicants for employment . . .” Sources indicated that City Manager Alexa Barton’s employee evaluation was up for discussion.
“Mayor, I would like to request that the City Council receive additional information regarding the potential rental inspection program in an upcoming work session,” Davidson said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s open meeting.
“Is there a particular time you’re looking for, either the next meeting in December (Dec. 10), or would you rather look at January?” asked Barton
“Next meeting, if there’s time,” Davidson said.
“And, just for a little clarification, are you looking to see the prior rental inspection program that came to the council, just to open it up for discussion, or are you wanting to see some changes?” Barton asked.
“Some changes,” Davidson responded. “And, be able to discuss what those changes would be,” she said.
“In the meantime,” Mayor Jeff Davis interjected, “I’ve got Councilman (Dean) VanWinkle sent me Grandview’s (ordinance), and I’ll send that on electronically to whoever wants it. I’m breaking that down right now – this week. So, it’s all interesting.”
VanWinkle is a Grandview city employee. Grandview is one of the neighboring cities that currently has a rental inspection program in force. This was apparently the first time the mayor or members of the council had studied the Grandview ordinance, despite considering such an ordinance for more than a year.
“We’ll add that on for Dec. 10,” Barton said.
The Grandview program appears to address a few of the issues raised by council members that voted no in the Nov. 12 meeting. The issue lost by a single vote, 5-4. Ward 1 Council member Ryan Finn changed his vote from yes on the first reading last month to no on the second reading, sending the proposal to defeat. VanWinkle, Gary Lathrop, Tim Savage and David Clark joined Finn in opposing the measure. Davidson, Chet Trutzel, Lorrie Peek and Davis voted in favor.
Grandview’s program, officially enacted in January of this year, lists 58 specific inspection points. Specificity had been an issue among both council members and landlords that had weighed in on the issue. Costs are limited to $20 per inspection, plus a certificate of occupancy fee of $12 per dwelling unit for owners of 50 or fewer units. The unit cost decreases the more units are owned above 50. Belton’s proposal had only estimated a cost of $50 per unit. The previous plan had been to have landlords choose from a list of private inspectors, approved by the city, that were willing to charge the agreed-upon fee. Grandview’s inspections are performed by city staff.
Belton also passed an ordinance last summer requiring landlords to purchase a $70 business license.
One of the largest sticking points for Belton was the frequency of inspection. Anywhere from every 2 years to every 5 years was discussed, in each case, inspectors would be asked to enter an occupied residence (with the approval of the landlord and tenant), which councilmembers and landlords found could be difficult to manage.
Grandview’s ordinance only requires inspections at tenant change – which means inspectors would not be going inside an occupied residence. Each time a new tenant is contracted, the landlord would be required to obtain a certificate of occupancy.