Since January 2007, City staff have put a significant focus on new initiatives that fall under the category of “Neighborhood Enrichment.” If 2006 was the year of City finances, 2007 is turning out to be the year of neighborhoods. Next week (June 6th, 7 pm) City staff will present City Council with another round of ideas for improving the quality of City neighborhoods. We’re looking at adopting national standards for exterior maintenance that would give city staff new ways of compeling absentee property owners to keep up the condition of their property. We’re looking at point of sale inspections. We’re looking at new ticketing and citation procedures. We’re looking at neighborhood councils. At this point, we’re trying to look at everything we can to see if we can start to turn the tide on the creep of blight in some of older neighborhoods. The good news is that this is a problem that cities all over the country are facing and there’s a lot of good ideas to look at. Here’s a short article from another city that is wrestling with the same kind of problems.
Occupancy limit in question
Orono Maine voting on limiting unrelated roommates from three to five
By: Robert Moriarty
The Orono Town Council will discuss a draft of an ordinance tonight to impose strict guidelines for new apartments with more than three unrelated residents and license landlords with the town. If approved, the proposal may be discussed in a public hearing at a date to be determined.
According to town planner Evan Richert, the proposal is an attempt to find a middle ground between the needs of residents and the preservation of the existing housing.
“I think the biggest factor in the decision will be whether the town council believes a good balance has been reached between providing for needed rental housing in Orono and protecting the character of existing neighborhoods,” Richert said.
The draft of the proposal calls for establishing a rental registration program so the town can get accurate information on the number of rental units and number of persons per rental, as well as for establishing a landlord section of the Town Committee to improve communications and to help address problem properties.
Explicit provisions are outlined for non-traditional families. The registration program will not ask for names or information about tenants.
In the proposal, landlords would be given strict requirements on new properties to comply with Maine’s Life Safety Code. The code requires sprinkler systems for units with more than three unrelated tenants.
Under the proposal, existing properties would need adequate trash receptacles and enough parking spaces for residents.
According to town manager Cathy Conlow, the provision is “an acknowledgement that in the past 10 years, we’ve gone from a society where college kids necessarily didn’t have cars to one where every household has two to three cars.”
“Our goal is to create an environment that is safe and healthy for students, townspeople and everyone around,” Conlow said.
Orono landlord Scott Thomas said the timing was evidence that the council plans to discuss the proposal while many students are away.
“I can almost guarantee you that there will be a new ordinance when [students] get back in the fall,” Thomas said.
“I don’t know that’s the intent at all,” Conlow said. She said the council would be “sensitive to the student issue,” and that public debate over the proposed ordinance may wait until the fall.
Conlow also made it clear that the most important thing was coming to a reasonable agreement with students and landlords.
“I want to make it clear we are looking to make it comfortable with everyone and to cooperate with students and landlords to come to an agreement,” Conlow said. “We need to start working with landlords and students and everyone in the community to develop ordinances and to work together to make this a good place for students to live.”