BERRIEN SPRINGS — The unveiling of a new rental housing ordinance is a month away, Oronoko Township board members said Tuesday. The board’s rental ordinance committee has been working on a proposed new ordinance for several months.
Rental committee chairman Don Damron said his committee has nearly everything in place to roll out, including the ordinance itself, forms and fee schedules. He said the committee will present everything they’ve developed at the township board’s April meeting.
Township Supervisor Mike Hildebrand said the board will then schedule an informational meeting/listening session to be held at the public safety building. “We will lay out all the facts so people have the correct information to base their opinion on,” he said. “We want people to know that it’s not the rental housing ordinance of 10 or 20 years ago.”
Oronoko Township has not had a rental housing ordinance on the books for more than two decades. Back then, the issue divided the community and the township’s ordinance ended up being thrown out in court.
The most recent discussion about enacting a new ordinance began nearly two years ago when the subject came up at a public forum. Residents said then that they wanted to see public safety concerns addressed, but did not want to see good landlords be punished.
Hildebrand and Damron said the proposed new ordinance will address a number of issues, including not only public safety concerns, but also short-term rentals. Committee members are also working out final details on how much the inspection and registration fees will be, who will do the inspections and how often they will be done.
When questioned by a resident about getting a copy of the latest ordinance draft, Hildebrand asked people to wait until the final draft is ready. “I know everybody is itching to see what’s in it,” he said. “We’ll put it out on our website and Facebook page when we have the final form.”
Action on another proposed ordinance is being put on the back burner until the rental housing ordinance is done. The parking ordinance amendment addresses similar blight issues. The focus of the parking ordinance is to address concerns such as front yards becoming parking lots around some homes that are rentals or duplexes.
In other action Tuesday, board members updated the salary schedule for several township employees to make their salaries comparable with those of government employees in similarly-sized communities. The deputy clerk’s pay was increased by $1 a hour and everyone else’s by 50 cents an hour. Their pay will also go up by 50 cents a year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
In another compensation change, the board approved paying township employee Christin Rice to be the recording secretary for the planning commission. Hildebrand noted that he and other township officials realized the importance of having a recording secretary for that body at the master citizen planner class they took.
Building official Rich Kubsch suggested the change so that planning commission secretary Dave Nelson can more fully participate in meeting discussions and not have to take notes. Nelson will still review Rice’s minutes and submit them for approval.