2014-03-12 / Front Page

City considers changed, new ordinances

Front yard fences, rental inspections discussed

MANISTIQUE – It was an evening of ordinances at Monday’s regular Manistique City Council meeting. Amended fence and rental dwelling ordinances, along with a tax exemption ordinance for a local business, were introduced.

The first ordinance, amending section 415 of Ordinance 299 of 2011, makes changes to stipulations regarding front yard fences. Under this change, residents can add front yard fences of a certain material to their property.

“It’s very explicit about what the planning commission expects,” City Manager Sheila Aldrich said.

She noted that anyone planning to get a permit for a front yard fence will be advised to contact MISS DIG to avoid digging into utility lines in their front yard.

Councilperson Bill Vandagriff questioned why the city planning commission decided to make the change to the ordinance now.

“We’ve had people asking for and wanting front yard fences now for a number of years and we have finally done something about it,” said Mayor Jan Jeffcott.

Vandagriff also asked whether the ordinance will allow a chainlink fence. He noted that in one part of the ordinance it states “the fence will be of vinyl, aluminum or wood construction”, and another section explicitly prohibits barbed wire. He suggested both these sections specifically prohibit chainlinked fencing.

Councilperson Elizabeth Hill noted that this could be done, and that the fences are supposed to be of a more decorative purpose.

“They’re supposed to, actually, one, address some issues, like children that shouldn’t be running out in the road, but also be decorative,” she said.

Attorney John Filoramo said he could add the section prohibiting chain-linked fences, and also change the layout of the ordinance, which was centered and not aligned left, noting he was not “comfortable” with this.

The second ordinance introduced for the council’s consideration involved the amendment of Ordinance 264 and 265 of 2003, which addressed establishing rental licensing and regulation.

“We had been reviewing our existing rental ordinance for its effectiveness for quite a while now, and we found some areas that we felt called for amendments and additions,” Aldrich explained. “What this ordinance will allow us to do is to have much better oversight on the rentals and their compliance with the ordinance.

This ordinance has a lot more teeth in it than the last one,” she added.

Aldrich said deficiencies in the ordinance have resulted in the city’s inability to properly protect both renters and landlords.

“We’ve just been really having some problems with rentals, and with our inspections, lack of inspections, getting people into a rental without it being inspected,” she said.

While most of the landlords in the area have been obtaining the city’s inspections before a unit is occupied, Aldrich said some do not, and that it created an issue.

She also noted that the ordinance should undergo at least one change before it is adopted, including adding the word “rental” before the words “building inspector” in some sections. Aldrich explained this would clarify the process for landlords so that they do not unintentionally obtain an inspection from the county building inspector.

Aldrich said the city has been working with the Manistique Housing Commission, and if rentals are HUD inspected, the city merely acquires this inspection certificate to avoid dual inspections.

“Between the two of us, we want to get all the rentals inspected in Manistique,” she said. “It’s for protection of both the landlord and the renter.”

The last ordinance of the evening involved a PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) plan for Peter Potterpin, owner of PK Housing and Management out of Okemos, Mich., which owns Lakeview Apartments in Manistique. In a recent meeting of the council, Potterpin requested a PILT plan instead of a traditional ad valorem tax bill.

He explained that, with a PILT plan, his company could have a better chance of acquiring Low Income Housing Tax Credits from MSHDA and then selling them to an investor to raise funds for a planned $1.25-1.5 million rehabilitation project at the apartments.

In a letter to council, Potterpin noted that “Manistique Lakeview is in dire need of substantial capital repairs with no funding source to complete these needed items … additionally, there are handicap accessibility issues that need to be addressed.”

The rehabilitation will include: new unit amenities throughout, new boilers and water heaters, new windows, new siding and roofs, updated landscaping and signage, and new parking surfaces. Potterpin said the project would create around 30 new jobs and approximately 20 “sustaining” jobs. He also explained that USDA Rural Development, who holds the property’s mortgage, has no funding available to address the issues.

The city approved the request, setting an interest rate of 12 percent to be taken from the net income of the property instead of taxes.

Aldrich explained during Monday’s meeting that Potterpin’s company will provide city with an income statement each year, and the percentage would be taken from that.

“Actually, that 12 percent brought us pretty close to what his taxes were, but it still gave him the points that he needed to get these low cost dollars to do the $1 million worth of repairs for that building,” she said.

The payments are due on or before April 15 each year.

Each ordinance will be considered for approval during the council’s next meeting set for March 24. If approved, each ordinance will be published and become effective 10 days afterward.

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