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Public calls for more active Property Maintenance Code enforcement – and it works

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Introducing herself as a ‘libertarian and a landlord’ - Melanie Salins calls for the town government to protect its citizens from public health and public safety abuses by what she termed ‘slumlords’. Photo/Roger Bianchini. Video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

A strong public outpouring of support for stronger property maintenance enforcement led to an unexpected result at Monday’s Front Royal Town Council meeting. Work session discussion indicated a clear majority in support of a so-called “baby step” move of Option B of five options presented to council by staff in recent months.

After nine of nine “Public Concerns” speakers addressed council and the mayor in favor of the more proactive and less costly Option C two councilmen, John Connolly and Gary Gillespie, stated that they had changed their mind in favor of Option C that day.

Connolly directly attributed his change of heart to the public turnout in favor of Option C – which included many who did not speak – at the meeting. Following the meeting, Gillespie elaborated to the media on his meeting comments about earlier discussions that day with code enforcement colleagues swaying his stance.

Gillespie explained those colleagues were at his work in Loudoun County where he serves as a planning reviewer, which he added does involve code enforcement.

With Gillespie and Connolly joining earlier Option C proponents Chris Morrison and Jacob Meza, Meza’s motion, seconded by Morrison, to adopt the Option C initiative of adoption “of the Property Maintenance Code in full without a Rental Inspection Program” passed 4-2, with Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Councilman William Sealock dissenting.

While the compromise option falls short of Morrison’s hope of implementation of the full code with renter protections in place, he noted that option was not likely to gain a majority council consensus at this point due to its added enforcement staff costs estimates from $50,000 to $150,000 a year.

Staff’s estimate of the costs associated with Option C of building code enforcement, essentially on a complaint or outside structure observation basis, was legal costs associated with landlord challenges of Town citations against them.

Royal Examiner’s camera was there to capture the meeting. Watch the Council at work and the public comments that swayed at least one councilman and council discussion prior to its vote.

Download the agenda here.

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