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Council approves property maintenance code

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The Corvallis City Council unanimous approved a property maintenance code at its Monday night meeting at the downtown fire station.

The city has been working on property maintenance issues for more than three years, and more than 40 public meetings have been held to discuss it. The issue was sparked by concerns raised over rental housing conditions during the Collaboration Corvallis project and multiple committees have participated in the discussions.

The code replaces the current rental housing code and takes effect in 180 days. City staff will engage in a public education process during that time, and the new code will be reviewed annually. The code covers interiors of rental housing and exteriors on all property, including commercial.

“I’m glad we are finally getting to it,” said Ward 9 Councilor Hal Brauner, who led the debate on the code at the Administrative Services Committee. “Is it perfect? I doubt it. That’s one of the reasons why we have the annual review. Let’s bring the ordinance forward and live with it.”

Brauner also suggested that during the education process “people need to know exactly what the code language and administrative procedures are.”

A total of 16 people spoke on the new code during a public hearing that lasted eight minutes shy of two hours. Eight of the speakers backed the code, and the remainder expressed variying levels of concern with it.

Chief among the points of contention were notification procedures, the appeals and penalties process and whether the new system truly is complaint-based.

“These are not small issues and they should be addressed before it is passed by the council,” said Deborah Weaver, a member of the board of directors of the Willamette Association of Realtors.

Several property managers, landlords and real estate professionals suggested the city continue to work on the code language.

Neighborhood activists — and the councilors — disagreed.

“We have waited a really long time,” said Trish Daniels a former councilor who also worked on a city advisory committee during the process. “The time has come for action.”

In other action councilors:

• Voted 9-0 in favor of a resolution in support of the establishment of a taxing district for OSU Extension, which provides services such as 4-H and the master gardener program. Proponents of the service district plan hope to put a measure on the May ballot.

Benton County, which currently is the major source of funding for Extension programs, voted in July to back the proposal, with the cities of North Albany, Monroe and Adair Village also expressing support. With Corvallis’ backing only Philomath remains, and its City Council will consider the issue Nov. 30.

Four residents spoke in favor of the proposal during visitor time. If voters pass the service district, it would cost county taxpayers 0.8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Owners of property valued at $300,000 would pay $24 per year.

• Voted 8-1 in favor of an updated process for expansion and/or forming a parking district. The proposal was developed because of residents’ concerns about how the process was used earlier this year when Parking District C near Central Park was expanded.

Key changes included involving non-property owners in the initiation process, requiring the support of 50 percent of property owners (rather than the previous 50 percent of owners in each block face), reducing the required parking utilization threshold from 85 percent to 75 percent and giving the city manager wide leeway in administering the process.

Ward 3 Councilor Zach Baker was the lone “no” vote. Baker said the new approach is inconsistent and adds power to the city manager at the expense of the council, which he said “needs to own this process.”

Paul

The author Paul