Community can speak on rental housing ordinance Monday

Published 2:23 pm Saturday, October 11, 2008

In what will be the second reading of the revised rental housing ordinance, people will have the chance to speak for or against the ordinance Monday at the Albert Lea City Council meeting.

At the second reading of the original rental ordinance in April, the ordinance was tabled indefinitely to rework it with a task force of landlords, tenants, Realtors, property managers and city staff.

Members of the task force met six times to rework the ordinance. At their last meeting, 11 out of 12 task force members approved the most current version of the ordinance, on the condition of having a tenant registry in place.

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If it is approved, all property owners who choose to rent a dwelling unit will be required to obtain a license before doing so and have an inspection of the premises prior to renting. Then, subsequent inspections will be conducted, depending on the results of the previous inspection.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of Albert Lea” who rent housing, it states.

It intends “to establish a permanent mode of protecting and regulating the living conditions of the residents of the city who rent dwelling units,” according to the ordinance.

During the Thursday preagenda meeting, city councilors brought up concerns over the fee schedule that will go along with the ordinance.

Albert Lea City Manager Victoria Simonsen said Fire Chief and Building Inspector Paul Stieler has it a goal that by the end of November he will present a fee schedule to the council.

Fee schedules are usually not passed together with an ordinance so that the council can have the ability of changing it year to year if it decides to.

Councilor George Marin said it is still sitting awkward with him to not have the fee schedule passed with the ordinance.

He also said he has a problem with imposing a fee to landlords if the members of the fire department, who will be conducting most of the inspections, are already getting paid.

Simonsen said city staff consulted with the League of Minnesota Cities before they even started the process to develop a rental housing ordinance, and it was the league’s recommendation to pass the ordinance with the ability to impose a fee. If the council choose to pass a $0 fee the first year that’s fine, but the ability to charge a fee needs to be in place for when the council wants to do this.

Marin said he thinks the council should consider waiving the fees for at least the first year.

“This to me kind of mirrors what we did with our sewer rate reduction,” he said. “We didn’t want our people to feel like we’re taking advantage of them in these softer economic terms, and that’s exactly what these guys are feeling.”

When he goes in to get his car fixed, he expects a written estimate, and with this situation that’s exactly what these property owners are wanting, Marin said.

Simonsen said if the council wanted to approve waiving the fees for the first year or two for landlords that come in and register their properties, she did not find a problem with that.

The councilors agreed this would be a good idea.

The most controversial issue involved at the task force meetings — the tenant registry — is going to be done through an e-mail system.

During the Monday meeting, the council will also:

-Have seven public hearings about assessments for improvement projects made this year.

First is the Margaretha Avenue reconstruction project, which totaled about $1.8 million, and included the reconstruction of Margaretha Avenue from 125 feet south of 11th Street to 14th Street. The reconstruction included the complete removal of the existing concrete pavement and replacement with new concrete pavement with curb. It also included new storm sewer, a system to control surface moisture and replacement of the water main on the roadway.

Project costs came from a $600,000 federal grant received by the city, a $500,000 grant received by Freeborn County and the remainder being assessed to 12 large property owners along Margaretha Avenue.

Second is the assessments for the 2007 Sanitary Sewer Lift Station at Pearl Street and Elizabeth Avenue.

Final costs associated with the project were about $385,000, with about $34,000 assessable to adjacent property owners.

Third is the assessments for the street and underground utility improvements on Pilot Road, Hi Tec Avenue and Algon Street.

Final project costs were about $388,000, with 77 percent assessable to adjacent property owners and 23 percent being a city cost.

Fourth is the assessments for the reconstruction project on Amelia Avenue, Amelia Place, Hoffman Avenue, Oregon Street and Hershey Street.

Total project costs were about $290,000, with 68 percent being assessable to adjacent property owners and 32 percent being city costs.

Fifth is the assessments for the water main loop construction project, which involved the construction of a 12-inch water main loop from S.E. Marshall Street east of Freeborn County Road 38 and north to the existing system at East Main Street.

Final project costs were about $375,000, with 13 percent being assessable to adjacent property owners, 13 percent being city costs and the remainder being held for future or deferred assessments.

Sixth is the assessments for the 2008 Neighborhood Improvement Project.

Final project costs were about $619,000, with 51 percent being assessable to adjacent property owners and 49 percent being city costs.

Seventh is the assessments for the bituminous overlay on Hawthorne Street, Lakewood Avenue, Lakeview Boulevard and Third Street.

Project costs of the project are about $394,000, with about 61 percent being assessable, 17 percent being the city’s cost and about 22 percent coming from state funds.

-Have a public hearing on the formation of a tax increment financing district for S.A.R. Inc., a custom machining and metal fabrication operation on Airport Road.

The company is making the request for the tax increment finance assistance because of a proposed 9,600 square-foot expansion.

-Have a public hearing about Parking Maintenance District assessments, which include the cost of snow removal, street sweeping and lighting in the downtown business district north of Pearl Street, south of Fountain Street, west of Elizabeth Avenue and east of St. Mary Avenue.

Assessments include the cost of the district from Aug. 1, 2007, through July 31, 2008.

-Vote on whether to authorize a conditional use permit for Prairie Senior Cottages, a supervised living facility, which is planned to go up at the site of the old West Clinic.

-Vote on whether to authorize an agreement with Manchester to maintain the sanitary sewer system owned by Manchester.

If approved, the agreement states that Manchester will equip its lift station with a system that is compatible with the city’s existing system at the Albert Lea City Garage.

It also states that Albert Lea employees shall perform various maintenance procedures on the system and will bill Manchester for time and materials used.

The agreement would go into effect for 40 years and would automatically renew in 5-year increments.

-Vote on whether to renew a currency exchange license to J&C Nelson Inc. at 1619 W. Main St. that would allow Nelson’s to offer check cashing services to its customers.

-Vote on whether to authorize the mayor and city manager to enter into an agreement with the Albert Lea Hockey Association for rental of ice time and the lease and operation of the concession stand at City Arena during the 2008-09 year.

-Vote on whether to authorize the mayor and city manager to enter into an agreement with the Albert Lea School District for the rental of ice time at City Arena for its hockey program.