Maurianne Adams, Phil Jackson, Rob Morra (Building Commissioner)
The Rental Bylaw Implementation Group heard a detailed report this afternoon from Building Commissioner Rob Morra on the implementation of the new Amherst rental registration and permit bylaw which went into effect January 1st
Originally it was thought the town had 1,570 rental properties that needed to comply, but after a mailing to all of them Morra reports a number of phone calls from homeowners who should not have been on the list.
After the dust cleared, about 1,300 properties remained. So far just over 1,000 have paid the $100 fee, filled out the forms and received their permits.
18 have already gone before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a parking permit or to remove a "owner occupancy" condition on their original Special Permit and another 40-50 remain in the pipeline for Zoning hearings.
But that still leaves around 250 who are not in compliance and do not seem interested in coming into compliance. Next week the town will send them a "more formal notice of violation" with a short two week time frame for coming into compliance.
If not, the Building Commissioner will issue fines which will be enforced by Eastern Hampshire District Court.
Morra reports that the 250 outliers are almost all "absentee owners" and that local well known landlords have been extremely cooperative, as has the Zoning Board of Appeals with rental housing related cases.
Amherst police Chief Scott Livingtone has agreed to work with the town's Information Technology department to allow Noise and Nuisance tickets and arrests to be made available on the Amherst Rental Permitting page of the town website. Morra hopes this will happen over the summer.
Currently the database only includes building code and zoning violations. Considering the impetus for the entire permit system was the noxious influence party houses were having on neighborhoods it only makes sense to include police data.
Vince O'Connor, a 40 year Amherst rental tenant
The Committee also heard from Town Meeting member Vince O'Connor, who filed a petition article (#42) to, "suspend the operation and enforcement of the bylaw" until after a new more inclusive committee is appointed by the Moderator consisting of 8 Town Meeting members -- four of them tenants (but one has to be an undergrad student) and four homeowners (at least one a rental housing owner).
In other words a do over.
O'Connor has now amended the article to take out, "suspend the operation and enforcement" of the bylaw and the new committee of eight would simply review the current Self-Certification Checklist and make suggestions to the Town Manager, Select Board and report to Town Meeting in the Fall.
Morra and three-out-of-four members of the Rental Bylaw Implementation Bylaw Group, while remaining polite, did not seem overly impressed with Mr. O'Connor's idea.