West Donegal Township supervisors discussed the possibility of a property maintenance code designed in part to ensure the safety of rental properties despite the objections of a supervisor who said he feared it would be used by future township officials for excessive regulation.
As things stand now, Code Enforcement Officer Wayne Miller can do little without supervisors’ approval to order people to clean up property that gets complaints from neighbors, such as unmowed grass and weeds, garbage in the yard and broken-down vehicles. Miller told supervisors at their meeting on Monday, April 9, that since supervisors generally meet once or twice a month, Miller said problems are taking longer to correct than they should. Also, Miller said people sometimes clean up their properties, then neglect them so the problem returns within months.
And Miller said in other cases, he is powerless to do anything. He gave an example of a tenant who kept many animals; the stench from the animals was entering a neighboring rental unit. Miller said he had to tell the neighbor who complained that there was nothing he could do about that.
“If you were living in that situation, you would probably rather have it corrected somehow,” Miller said.
Supervisors Vice-Chairman Douglas Hottenstein said he was concerned that the maintenance code would give a future code enforcement officer the power to crack down excessively. He said he knew Miller would not do something like giving a property owner only five days to clean up a problem, but he feared that a future code enforcement officer might.
“If we go down this road, I want to start small,” Hottenstein said.
Also, Don Kreider, a landlord and a member of the township Planning Commission, said the reason he lives in West Donegal Township instead of Elizabethtown Borough or Mount Joy Township is because he does not want to deal with those sort of regulations.
Township Manager John Yoder suggested that he could meet with Hottenstein, Miller and perhaps one other township supervisor to go over the proposed rules and decide which ones should be dropped from consideration before the code is considered in May. Supervisor Philip Dunn said all supervisors should look over the proposed code and mark it up.
In other business, supervisors voted unanimously to advertise a proposed ordinance requiring businesses with alarms or sprinkler systems to have keys to the business in a lockbox that firefighters can open. The goal is to allow firefighters to enter the business without breaking in when the alarm is sounding or the sprinkler system is activated. Also, supervisors agreed to delay action on accepting a new park in the StoneyBrook housing development for public dedication after Yoder said the park’s restrooms are not quite ready since they contain construction debris and need to be cleaned.