CO amendment passes on first reading

The Henderson City Council passed an amendment to the Ordinance Requiring a Permit to Rent a Dwelling in the City of Henderson (CO ordinance) by five to three on its first reading on Monday night.

Council members Bernard Alston, Lonnie Davis, and Mary Emma Evans voted against the amendment, reflecting their original votes on the ordinance itself.

The amendment will go to second reading at the next Council meeting. The Council is set to meet in special session on October 29, 2007.

Before the continued public hearing on the amendment was opened to the public, Community Development Committee Chair Garry Daeke, whose committee originated the ordinance, summarized the amendment as a change requiring that inspections be done before tenants occupy dwellings.

He said that the City intends to conduct inspections within 72 hours. If it fails to do so, a temporary permit will be issued.

Council member Lynn Harper asked if the language of the amendment reflected the original language of the ordinance.

City Attorney Billy Strickland replied that it was, but that he had changed the “three day” language to “72 hours”, reflecting the language used at the last City Council meeting.

After some discussion regarding a concern that “72 hours” might equal nine business days, it was agreed that Strickland would change the wording to “three business days”.

Once the meeting was opened to public comments, attorney Michael Satterwhite, who represents a consortium of landlords in the City of Henderson who opposed the CO ordinance, claimed that the amendment was not fully integrated into the body of the ordinance.

He suggested that the Council was not prepared to vote on it.

Satterwhite also stated that it may be appropriate to have the matter taken up with the new Council.

The new Council will take office on December 3, 2007.

Henderson resident Copper Rain told the Council that she is a renter with a wonderful landlady. She said that she agreed that tenants should have responsibilities.

Rain also said that tenants should know that a dwelling is “okay” before they move in.

The Henderson resident commented that she would not eat in a restaurant that had not been inspected.

Rain finished her remarks by saying that landlords and tenants need to be held accountable.

After closing the hearing to public comments, Henderson Mayor Clem Seifert asked the Council if they wanted to leave the hearing open or close it.

Leaving the hearing open would delay a Council vote on the issue until at least the next Council meeting, a step in the direction suggested by Satterwhite.

Harper moved to close the meeting, seconded by Council member Bobby Gupton.

The motion passed without opposition.

Harper then moved to enact the amendment to the ordinance, with Gupton seconding once again.

As debate began, Council member Bernard Alston asked Satterwhite a questions about what kind of changes were necessary to integrate the amendment into the ordinance.

As Satterwhite began to speak, Council member Elissa Yount asked if his remarks were in order, the public comment portion of the hearing having been closed.

Seifert allowed Satterwhite to speak.

Satterwhite said that he had only received his copy of the ordinance that afternoon. He said he had noted two places where it was not integrated. He specifically pointed out a section stating that says that the City may come out to inspect in 30 days.

Strickland replied to Satterwhite that he had seen the referenced portion of the ordinance. He said that portion cited by Satterwhite contains “may” versus “shall” language and was therefore vague. He said he did not feel the need to address it.

Satterwhite countered that the issue was so “contentious” that he felt it needed to be clear.

Harper told Satterwhite that the amendment was available on Friday. Satterwhite countered that it had been sent to him the afternoon before the meeting by City staff.

Seifert asked Strickland if the additional changes would require another public hearing. Strickland replied in the affirmative, but also said that the did not think that the changes were necessary.

Council member Mary Emma Evans said that “if we have come this fair, I don’t see the need to rush”.

Evans then put forward a substitute motion for the Council to not vote on the ordinance. The motion was seconded by Alston.

Yount noted that the debate on the issue is three years old.

“It’s not like we’re doing something different,” she said.

Yount said she would appreciate the opportunity to vote.

Evans substitute motion failed, with only Alston, Davis, and herself voting for it. The vote then proceeded to the amendment itself.