BENNINGTON — The Bennington Select Board reviewed the proposed Property Maintenance Ordinance on Monday, but there was some disagreement on what the scope of the law should be.
The law would require the owners of certain properties to maintain those properties to specific standards, including keeping the property free of vegetation undergrowth, preventing significant deterioration of building materials, removing rubbish, debris, and graffiti, and repairing broken windows, among other things.
This was the second reading for the ordinance, which will go before the board at least once more to be approved. Michael Harrington, the town's economic and community development director, said that after the first public reading, in May, substantial changes have been made based on community feedback. He said portions of the ordinance referring to occupied single-family or two-family dwellings were removed, so that it now only applies to multi-family dwellings, commercial buildings and spaces, and vacant single- and two-family dwellings. The jurisdiction of the ordinance was also amended, so that it will now only apply to property located in the Central Business zoning district, which includes downtown Bennington.
"From the feedback we received from the board, that was certainly the most contentious area," said Harrington regarding the inclusion of occupied single- and two-family dwellings, "If it's something that the Select Board feels is needed and should be put back in, we can certainly discuss how best to do that, but this, I think, hits on most of the major issues we see, without impacting the general property owner of a single-family dwelling."
Select Board member Jim Carroll said his goals had been to not penalize homeowners who were, he said, "doing their best, but may not able to meet it financially." However, he said, property owners who do not reside in the home, but rent it out to others, should still be held accountable for maintaining their property. "I don't know Mike," he said, "I think we need to cover that."
"If it's a duplex, where they live on one side and rent the other, that's one thing," said board Chairman Tom Jacobs, "but if it's a rental property, they should be held to the same standard."
Assistant Town Manager Daniel Monks said most of the problems they're seeing are with vacant single-family properties, which are included in the ordinance. "It's a very small subset of properties that are excluded, based on the concerns of the Select Board and others," he said.
The purpose of the ordinance, Article 30, according to the draft, is to "abate public nuisances, and to prevent, reduce, and eliminate dangers to health, safety, and/or welfare associated with neglected or abandoned properties, by regulating the use and maintenance of property within the Town of Bennington."
Harrington said a draft of the ordinance will be available on the town's website starting on Tuesday. There will be opportunity for public comment at at least one future Select Board meeting, before the board approves the ordinance.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.