By: Steve Schering, Pioneer Press
The Northfield Village Board has abandoned plans to enact a sweeping rental housing ordinance, and instead asked village staff to focus on alternative regulations.
Following the March 2014 shooting at a residence in the 800 block of Happ Road, in which one man was injured, the Village Board began discussing options to regulate rental properties within the village.
Northfield officials noted the difficulty in reaching the owner of the rented property on Happ Road, as well as numerous complaints regarding the tenants of the property, as reasons to look into a potential ordinance.
Trustees discussed a registration and education process for rental property owners, as well as a crime-free housing ordinance designed to speed up the eviction process of nuisance tenants.
Since discussions began last year, Village Manager Stacy Sigman said the village has heard from Open Communities. While the organization didn’t say it opposes such an ordinance, it wanted to share information with the village about such an action.
“They wanted to make sure our board fully understood the issues and potential ramifications of a rental housing ordinance before (we) moved ahead,” Sigman said.
After further discussions, village officials and trustees began to have reservations about enacting an ordinance.
“It’s not like we have an apartment building owned in the village,” Sigman said. “Usually it’s owner-rented. The vast majority of our town isn’t rental units.”
Northfield Police Chief Bill Lustig agreed, and he discussed the matter with trustees at a Feb. 17 Village Board meeting.
“We’ve had more problems from residential homes than we’ve had for rental properties in Northfield,” Lustig said. “I think this ordinance may not be the ordinance you want, especially when we’re looking into the image of this community. I’m not sure it will solve the problem, and I don’ think it will solve the problem.”
Several trustees agreed, including Brian Kozminski, who said one “uncomfortable chapter last year” didn’t warrant such a proposal.
“I’m not supportive of it,” Kozminski said. “I’m glad we went through the exercise, but I think we should put it on the shelf. I think it would be excessive regulation. We really don’t have a problem we need to solve.”
Instead of a larger ordinance, trustees suggested a much simpler registration process, similar to the village’s registration of pet dogs, as a way for the village to keep track of its rental properties.
“I don’t think we need this lengthy ordinance,” Trustee Joan Frazier said. “I would still be in favor of corralling people who use their homes as rental properties to register with the village. The concern has been knowing who to contact when there are issues. For that reason, I believe people who own homes and are renting should give their names and a contact number. That’s all.”
Village staff said they will also explore increasing fines for nuisance violations and bring their findings to the Village Board at a future meeting.
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