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Council to 'fine-tune' rental occupancy plan

| Friday, May 11, 2012, 12:48 a.m.

After launching a spirited crusade over the past month to enact an ordinance to regulate rental occupancy and curb code violations, Trafford council tabled immediate action Tuesday and opted to form a fact-finding committee instead.

"Council has decided we will review the (proposed) ordinance further, form a committee and fine-tune it. That's where we stand now," said President Tom Babeo.

Babeo made the announcement after a 20-minute executive session for "personnel and administrative purposes."

Council then voted 6-1 to table passage of the proposed 36-page Regulated Rental Unit Occupancy Ordinance, which would require landlords to purchase a business license and face revocation of that privilege if it is repeatedly violated.

Councilman Rey Peduzzi, who voted against tabling the ordinance, said he had no problem with any part of the proposed law. He also chided council about dragging its feet on the ordinance.

"Whatever you do, make it happen. Make it happen, because things don't happen here," he said.

After the meeting, Peduzzi said he worried about the prosperity of the borough if some ordinance isn't in place to keep the aging community from deteriorating.

Councilmen Chris Espenshade and Bruce Robinson said they backed off enacting the proposed ordinance because it was too complex.

"We talked about something simple we could pass quickly. This is also vague in certain areas," Espenshade said.

Solicitor Rachel Morocco said last week the proposed ordinance had been challenged in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and upheld.

Espenshade attempted to enact another kind of landlord/tenant regulation yesterday by making a motion to increase the occupancy permit fee from $20 to $150. However, the motion died for lack of a second.

Despite announcing council's decision to table action on the proposed ordinance, Babeo allowed three landlords to address it.

Two were against much of the ordinance, while one felt it was a good thing for the borough.

"I personally think the ordinance is very good ... it's positive and a first step in the right direction. You're on the verge of moving forward," said Todd Leighton, owner of several rental units.

John Walko, who said he's been a businessman for 20 years, questioned if the ordinance created a human rights issue. He also said he felt passing s uch a law would be a negative way to control crime and property deterioration.

"You're not encouraging by incentive. You're taking a negative approach with penalties. You're also trying to make me do things that are the responsibility of the police department," Walko said.

Ora Louvre told council the ordinance appeared to undermine small business. "Trafford is not a high-rent town. You're lucky if you're going to get $400-$450 per month in rent, and that's with utilities," she said.

Babeo then asked Walko to serve on the fact-finding committee, which should present a proposed ordinance for council's consideration that would take effect in January.

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