By Joe Bachman
A chronic nuisance ordinance has jumped its final hurdle, much to the dismay of city landlords.
After being sent back to the Finance Committee three times, last night the city finally approved the most recent version of the chronic nuisance ordinance passed by the Finance committee last week.
A chronic nuisance ordinance will hold landlords and property owners responsible for repeat troublesome properties that according to the city, drive down property value, create unnecessary tax burdens, and contribute to a general decay of the affected area — a sentiment not shared by many landlords in the area.
“People and property owners do more extreme vetting in review of those applying to mitigate the risk of the tenant not following the ordinance.” said landlord Kevin White as he addressed the council.
White also pointed out tenants who may not be in their full faculties, or suffering from a mental disability that may cause enough disturbances to violate the ordinance. However, the city assured owners that every ordinance violation will be circumstantial dependent on the situation. The ordinance mirrors many other similar laws in cities throughout Wisconsin.
“Municipalities more and more are using nuisance laws to force property owners to evict tenants who have too many police calls,” said landlord Dean Ramsden. “The landlord simply cannot be forced to evict a tenant by the will of the local police department. — Holding the property owner responsible for the actions of another is wrong; we are suggesting that if this is a statewide concern, that it be addressed by the legislator.”
Interim Police Chief Randy Jahns sees it another way — as according to the Chief, citations and court dates aren’t curtailing the problem of troublesome tenants.
“This just gives us another tool to combat and correct the problem,” said Jahns. “We’re looking at this through the eyes of the people that have to live next to these properties and how it affects the property value.”
Two Alderpersons that believe the tenants should be held solely responsible for their behavior are Jim Stack and Steve Koth.
“They’re troublemakers — let’s call it that,” said Alderperson Stack. “They don’t know right from wrong, or good from bad, and they’re going to be a problem where ever they go. So why do you want to burn the owner of the property?”
“I think moving forward we want to encourage people to bring their business to Wisconsin Rapids, and we’re looking at this ordinance as it affects property owners — not specific rental properties,” said Koth. “So we’re saying if somebody wants to come to town and build a restaurant — we’re saying bring your business to Wisconsin Rapids, but if you get that one person as Alderperson Stack identified as a ‘troublemaker’ come to your business and cause problems we’re going to bill you for the police service instead of the person causing the problem — that’s why I’m still against this.”
Through council discussion it was pointed out that only a small percentage of properties are considered nuisances. A statistic that Alderperson Scott Kellogg took in an entirely different direction.
“We’re spending all this time on five or so properties, and I have to think of the other constituents I have,” said Kellogg. “People that are being directly affected by this are the other residents that live next to these properties — I think this is long overdue.”
The nuisance ordinance will take effect on July 1 of this year.
Council members voting for: Dolan, Hepp, Ferkey, Zurfluh, Kellogg
Council members voting against: Rayome, Koth, Stack