Bellows Falls Trustees discuss rental housing ordinance

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Nov. 10, the Bellows Falls Trustees discussed the proposed Rental Housing Ordinance with Town Planner Chuck Wise.

Wise explained they were in the public involvement phase, meeting landlords and receiving comments through the website and making edits. He said most of the comments focused on a desire for balance between tenant rights and landlord rights. If passed, the ordinance would establish a process for inspecting rental housing.

In the past Wise explained they held public meetings, but this year input would need to be solicited differently. He said he would have to meet residents individually and Village President Deborah Wright recommended using Zoom. Wise agreed that established groups would utilize an online meeting, but for now he was available for public comments on an individual basis.

Wright asked when the language would change and Wise hoped the draft of the ordinance would be presented to the Board by February 2021 and implemented July 1 in the next fiscal year.

Jeff Dunbar asked who else had been contacted for comments. Wise explained that during his onsite inspections individual landlords had been given copies of the draft.

Dunbar wanted this to include the entire community to “make sure that we give everybody a voice and everybody knows that this is happening.”

Wise said that for the Nuisance Ordinance, “It took us five months to collect input.”

He explained that his intern was working on a summary for contractors and bulk mailing. He said that without receiving public input and community support past proposals were not adopted.

Dunbar was happy to hear that both landlords and tenants had clear roles and said, “Everybody has the same goals. Tenants want a safe environment to live in, but they also share the responsibility of maintaining property” to the level expected by landlords. “Both need to be held accountable.”

Dunbar and Wright thanked Wise for his work on the draft. Wright said, “I do not think tenant issues are addressed appropriately… it’s important that we’re treating them as equals here in the process, so we can get compliance.”

The Trustees meet on the second and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House and all meetings are available online through Fact TV.

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