Overflow crowd at landlord licensing public hearing

An overflow crowd packed the Logan Municipal Council chambers Tuesday night for a public hearing on a proposed rental licensing program that has pitted some community members against landlords in a battle of property rights.City officials, however, will not make any decisions on the proposed licensing program for at least the next three months.An equal number of proponents and opponents of the licensing proposal that would serve as a business license for landlords costing $25 were allowed to speak before the council, although after the hearing a large number of opponents fumed outside the council chambers that more time wasn’t given to them.At issue is whether a landlord licensing program is necessary. Landlords argue that existing laws in the city allow renters to address safety concerns with the city and although the city receives many calls about certain problems, the current process is working. City officials are arguing that there are major safety concerns in some of the 5,500 rental units in the city, and a landlord licensing program could help get the city on track to address those issues.Council Chair Laraine Swenson allowed each person two minutes to speak at the hearing and required the opposite viewpoints to alternate turns in speaking before the council. One speaker, however, said he was in favor of a rental licensing proposal until a week ago.”I’ve changed my mind due to research and the laws that are already in place,” said Jeff Nielsen. “The city is at fault for everything that’s going on because they’re not pushing the laws that are already in place.”Nielsen said he was frustrated about city inaction in some areas such as the potholes and cracked sidewalks outside his home and what he said was gang and drug activity taking place across the street from him after he called officials for weeks. Meanwhile, he said, the city has had time to remove park strips and spend thousands of dollars improving the sidewalk and landscaping in Logan’s Boulevard area, and he’s tired of it.Still others said they appreciate the efforts of city leaders to rein in a problem with “slum lords” and landlords who live outside the state and just look to make as much money as possible from their units while paying little attention to them.”I have nothing against renters but I do have something against people who want to come in and change neighborhoods and make them something that they’re not supposed to be,” said Carol Griffin, a resident in the Adams school neighborhood that has more or less become “ground zero” in the landlord licensing issue.Following the public hearing the council voted 4-1 to suspend making a decision on the licensing proposal for 90 days. Swenson was the lone vote of opposition on that motion.That will give the city time to receive more input from the public on the issue (they invited those who didn’t get to speak during the one-hour hearing to write a letter to the council) and to speak with impartial experts like Paul Smith with the Utah Apartment Association.Smith was one who spoke at the public hearing, saying there were some merits to the city’s proposed ordinance.”I’m a landlords advocate, I’m the person at the Legislature that every year goes to bat for the landlords,” Smith said. “I recognize their (landlords’) concerns aren’t so much about the licensing as so much what the city will do to them through the license.”If landlords are concerned, Smith said, they don’t need to be. He noted that the president of the Utah Senate is a landlord and Gov. Gary Herbert is a Realtor and both are attuned to landlord needs. “I think there are more goals and interests in common here than there are apart,” Smith said. “Many of them already are saying it’s not licensing that’s the problem, it’s the distrust we’re worried about.”That sentiment was echoed outside the council chambers after the public hearing when Swenson excused those who were attending for the hearing. Many opponents of the proposed ordinance gathered to discuss the hearing and some said the issue is they just don’t trust the city. Some like Janet Brower say they have been told to do things to be in compliance with another controversial issue — the park strip ordinance — and when she comes up with requested proof so her property could be grandfathered, the city says it’s not good enough or doesn’t matter.The distrust continues on this new issue.”What are their plans to get rid of us as landlords who are in that (Adams Park) area?” Brower asked the council. “When the come comes, cut our throats.”

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