Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Prosecution Rests

 Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods meeting 3/19

At their lucky 13th and final meeting, the Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods Working Group voted 12-1-1 to specifically add "bad behavior" as a legitimate reason for enforcement action under the proposed bylaw, which in the most egregious of cases can result in the revoking of a rental permit.

Obnoxiously loud disruptive party houses that erode the quality of life in Amherst neighborhoods far and wide are the main reason the Safe & Healthy Neighborhood Working Group came into being.

Although vociferous neighbors are still concerned the new General Bylaw -- if endorsed by the Town Manager and then Town Meeting -- will not be ironclad enough to solve their problems with unruliness.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek Chaired SHNWG

The Select Board will decide, obviously yes, at their April 8 meeting whether to place the new General Bylaw on the warrant for the Spring Town Meeting, where it will require a simply majority vote.  Over the years Amherst has flirted with rent control and rental registration, neither of which proved effective.

Although this time around, the seriousness of purpose is almost palpable.

Maurianne Adams still has reservations


PhilJ said...

I think that Maurianne's comments at this point are about ensuring consistency in several respects throughout the document:

Who can initiate a complaint? Anyone, same as it is today.

Do the town's Nuisance House, Noise and Alcohol bylaws provide a framework for addressing behavior under this bylaw? Yes.

Could a landlord who consistently fails to demonstrate any good faith effort to address (not correct or eradicate, which are not reasonable) the behavior of his/her tenants potentially lose their permit? Yes.

I think CAN, except for those "members" who will go their own way during Town Meeting, is satisfied that this is the law they are seeking.

PhilJ said...

Please check out this summary slide/graphic that encapsulates what's in the now only 9-page document:


Larry Kelley said...

Nothing wrong with holding your feet to the fire until it passes, gets implemented and brings about the needed results.

And I'm sure she will.

Anonymous said...

Great point, Larry--will it work? That is yet to be shown and who would want student housing in their neighborhood until it's proven to work?

Larry Kelley said...

Journey of a 1,000 miles starts with the first step.

Dr. Ed said...

As I understand it, any existing legal use of property which is prohibited by a new ordinance is permitted to continue unabated under the concept of "grandfathered" and "existing nonconforming usage."

For example, if the town was to require that every residential property have 500 parking spaces, it could theoretically do so, but it would only apply to new residential properties, with every existing residential property free to continue with whatever it has now.

So why does any existing landlord have any obligation to register any existing rental property? And what about those existing properties that don't meet the new requirements, e.g. number of parking spaces? How is this any different than the above hypothetical example of a 500 space requirement applying to all properties, which you clearly can't impose retroactively.

Further, if this is directed at specific properties, why isn't it considered a "bill of attainder" which may not technically be the right legal term but the concept is the same -- it is the taking of a current usage of property without compensation which you can't do.

Larry Kelley said...

The new regulations will be a General Bylaw and as such can go into effect as soon as the AG approves it, and NOBODY is grandfathered.

Dr. Ed said...

I really wonder about that Larry - if I have one parking space and the town passes a bylaw that says I must have two of them, the town has thus made my use of my property illegal -- thus "taking" it from me without compensating me.

PhilJ said...

the updated regulation and process will be like it is today: complaint-based. if no one complains about you, you're good to go. no one is coming in to mandate anything, especially parking. the requirement for the plan is to have a clear understanding of how you, the landlord, plan to manage cars. the existing town bylaw only allows you to have two spaces on the front set back, which is an issue for many properties. the town will seek a viable alternative to a) parking cars on the lawn and b) paving your front yard.

The Juggernaut said...

"If nobody complains about you"

I respect and empathize with the residents of Amherst, I was a quieter student. I socialized, but never had a law enforcement encounter over something I was doing. However I can't help but feel that phrase above will translate to "if you aren't a student house."

Anonymous said...

I consider this whole process to have been a complete fraud. The landlords, who by the way are taxpayers, attended meeting after meeting where they were assured that the behavior of students, which is beyond their control, would not be a cause for penalties against them. It was then added in at the last meeting making all the draft after draft that was circulated irrelevant.

PhilJ said...

the existing bylaw is the existing bylaw w/respect to nuisance house, noise, alcohol.

if you are a landlord who has tenants who simply won't comply (and you don't try to evict them, your only viable alternative, i guess, to eradicating their behavior), then your obligation in this whole process is to demonstrate a good faith effort to resolve it.

you aren't responsible for them any more than a car rental company is responsible for your behavior as the driver.

that bylaw has its own fine scheme; we're not touching that.

if when you apply for your permit, the town will look at the composite of the infractions, if any, for the previous year. if you're a problem child, you'll know it long before your permit is suspended. and, you would have to be one obstinate, uncooperative individual to bring that down on your own head.

paper trail, man. if the police ticket your tenant, you know about it. follow up by reading them the riot act and documenting your effort. you won't be penalized for that. promise.