Upkeep code gets council OK in Kent

By Diane Smith Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The proposed code will be on council's agenda at its Nov. 5 meeting, where it is expected to be given final approval.

The code would be the first of its kind in Kent. Ravenna and Streetsboro have both passed exterior maintenance codes.

Community Development Director Louis Zunguze called the code "a good first step," although he said additional workers would be needed to enforce the code, especially if staff members are to do a community-wide sweep of dwellings that are in violation.

Council members questioned whether additional staff would be needed, however, since the law is expected to be enforced only when a resident complains.

Initially, the code would apply to residential structures, but commercial buildings would be phased in after two years.

The code would require building' exteriors to be painted or surfaced, and damaged walls, doors, porches, floors, steps, railings, decks, roofs, windows and chimneys to be repaired or replaced. Drains and gutters also are to be kept free of debris, and other outdoor structures like sheds, barns garages and bins should be maintained.

Code officers also would have the authority to condemn a structure, make repairs if owners fail to do so, or demolish the building if it is deemed to be a danger to the public.

A five member Property Maintenance Appeals Board would also be established and would have the authority to modify or withdraw actions required to correct the violation.

Mayor Jerry Fiala said the code has been needed for a long time.

"We have to be proud of our town and assure property owners that their neighbors are keeping up their property," he said. "There are some places that haven't been painted in 20 years. It's sad that we have to come up with a code to address things like that."

Councilman Wayne Wilson said he supported the code, but believes council should address concerns that landlords will pass along the cost of the repairs to their tenants, making rent unreasonably high.

But other council members said that would be a poor excuse for not making repairs because rent could be raised only as high as the market would permit. Fiala noted the cost of the repairs could be written off as a tax deduction.

"I think it would be market-driven," Councilman Ed Pease said. "I think people would be proud to stay in Kent, and I think this would give them a reason to be proud to stay in Kent."

Building Inspector David Smith said if the law is passed, the city would need to enforce it carefully. If staff members comb the city looking for violators, he estimated it would take at least three years for every violation in Kent to be cleared.

"If this is what you want, I think you have to roll up your sleeves," he said. "You have to be fair to the big guy and the little guy, commercial, residential and industry. You're going to need more than one person."

But William Schultz said he believed the city staff could start with

residential structures, and said the city might be able to use health

department staff, which inspects 60 percent of the dwelling units in

Kent, to help.

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