Council forms subcommittee to look at integrity ordinance

Nora Shelly, Reporter

City Council voted Monday night to form a subcommittee to redraft a proposed ordinance that will replace current nuisance property regulations as well as review existing property registration requirements to see if changes are needed. Both alderman and landlords took issue with ambiguous language in the updated ordinance surrounding punitive actions for landlords who failed to comply with the new regulations.

The neighborhood integrity ordinance, which was drafted in conjunction with a rental licensing ordinance and introduced last month, would have changed the way city officials address so-called nuisance properties, which are those considered to have a history of misconduct and a high amount of police activity. The rental licensing ordinance, which would have required all rental properties to register their buildings with the city, was voted down, as many aldermen said they felt it was unnecessary. However, a few aldermen said a registration requirement could be revisited in the future.

The formation of a committee comprised of both aldermen and landlords was originally proposed by Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), who said she felt aldermen should take action in reworking the ordinance.

“The example of why we need to form a subcommittee is this: We received an ordinance and resolutions from our city staff that most people can’t accept or buy into,” she said. “I think we need to be more involved in developing this policy.”

The integrity ordinance would increase scrutiny on so-called nuisance properties, and landlords of those properties would be required to correct any problems identified by city officials or deal with problem tenants. However, Ald. Brian Miller (9th) said the unclear manner in which landlords would be punished for failing to doing so was what prompted the decision to form the subcommittee.

The updated ordinances were originally prompted by the discovery of a woman’s body and reports of shots fired on properties near Evanston Township High School in November, but many landlords who spoke at Monday’s meeting felt it was unfair to put the responsibility of controlling their tenants’ behavior on them.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) and Miller originally proposed amendments to the integrity ordinance to help clarify some of the language, but both removed their motions in favor of forming the subcommittee to look into further refining the ordinance.

“I believe that the ordinance has a good process, it’s just not very clearly delineated which creates a lot of confusion,” Miller told The Daily. “I want to make sure the policy is clear, delineated and fair.”

Landlords showed up in large numbers both at Monday’s meeting and at a meeting Rainey held earlier this month to share their concerns. Many said they were satisfied with the Council’s decision to form the subcommittee.

“You shouldn’t be crafting an ordinance at a city council meeting,” Dan Schermerhorn, president of the property management firm Schermerhorn and Co., told The Daily. “It just shows that they … seriously want to involve the landlord community in enacting the ordinance.”

The subcommittee could be formed as early as the end of this week, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said at the meeting, and they will report back to the council in May with their recommendations.

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