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Mt. Pleasant residents request homeowners' committee

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mt. Pleasant Borough Council President Joe Bauer said he's looking into what steps are necessary to aid in the establishment of a borough homeowners' committee to help protect property values in the borough.

Such an organization would function independently from the borough, Bauer said.

“As president of council, I would not serve as an officer on such a committee, because it would be a conflict of interest, but I definitely support the idea of such a committee as a concerned (borough) homeowner,” Bauer said.

Bauer said he and borough councilman Larry Tate both have received feedback recently from 25 to 30 borough homeowners in support of the creation of such a committee.

“(The homeowners) said they'd like to have a voice in the borough to protect their property values,” Bauer said. “It's something they asked me to look into.”

Those who have spoken out in support of the establishment of such a committee also support of a 2010 borough residential rental property ordinance requiring landlords to obtain occupancy license from the borough and pay inspection fees, Bauer said.

“They all like that ordinance because it does protect their own property values,” Bauer said.

In September, Westmoreland County Judge Anthony Marsili dismissed three of four counts in a lawsuit filed last April by the Greater Mt. Pleasant Area Landlords Association against the ordinance.The fourth count in the suit, which involved appeals and fees related to the ordinance, has yet to be ruled upon, according to borough Solicitor Fred Wolfe.

In November, the borough amended the ordinance to address the concerns raised by the association in the fourth count, Wolfe said.

In light of the amended ordinance, a stay of the ordinance's enforcement provisions was vacated March 1 in keeping with Marsili's ruling, Wolfe said.

Marsili said the ordinance does not violate the Constitution or landlords' rights, as the association, which represents 40 residential rental property owners in the borough, had contended in the suit.

“Some residents said they were concerned about losing that ordinance, and they want to keep it. Aside from me being on council, I'm a property owner, and I don't want to lose it, either,” Bauer said.

On Monday, Tate said it's time to provide borough homeowners a forum to voice their views.

“For the past two years, it's been nothing but landlords this and landlords that. We felt it's about time people hear from the homeowners, too, because they're the ones who have to live next to the landlords' properties,” Tate said. “It's a shame people will put $100,000 into a property and find out it's worth less than that when they go to get it appraised or find out they can't sell it because of neighboring properties.”

Both Bauer and Tate declined to name any borough homeowners who have approached them about the possibility of forming the committee. They are planning a meeting to discuss the idea further at a to-be-determined date, Tate said.

“We're not saying all renters are bad. We have good renters and excellent landlords. We'd like to hear everyone's opinion. We should hear both sides of the story,” Tate said.

Scott Marne — vice president of the Greater Mt. Pleasant Area Landlords Association — has a critical view of the idea for a borough homeowners' committee.

“I think this idea is divisive. Is not all property value important in this town? Why is there a set of inspection codes for one kind of building and not another? Safety is universal, no matter what the codes are, and every building is important,” Marne said. “Why aren't we working together to make all property values important in this town? The rental properties aren't going anywhere.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or apanian@tribweb.com.

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