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Contested Property Maintenance Code Passes in Marlborough
Written by Jennifer Butler Kirkwood and Larry Roeder

        Amidst outcries of disapproval from a large and riled crowd, supervisors passed an ordinance adopting the township’s version of the International Property Maintenance Code.

         “There have been several open meetings and requests for people to submit changes,” Supervisor Chair Joan Smith said of the township’s code adoption.
        The International Property Maintenance Code, published every three years by the International Code Council, sets standards for property premises and structures which can be adapted and enforced by municipalities.
        Over 75 residents turned out for the hearing. Twelve residents spoke out in direct opposition of the ordinance during the public comment period, asking supervisors to either table adoption and consider other options or drop the issue altogether.
        Resident Charles Higman commented that an international code is not appropriate for rural Marlborough Township.
        “It might be a good fit for Istanbul, Turkey,” Higman said. “It is not a good fit for Marlborough.”
        “I don’t want to tell you what to do with your property,” resident Ray Bowlin added. “I don’t want to tell you and I don’t want you telling me.”
        Fran Hanney spoke representing the township’s planning commission on the process of developing the adapted code for Marlborough Township.
        “When we took this through the planning commission we took it point by painstaking point,” Hanney explained, adding that citizens were invited to participate in the process.
        While Hanney stated he was not specifically speaking for or against passage of the code as written that night, he expressed the township’s need for some guidelines.
        “There are always bad apples that ruin it for everybody else which is why we have to have some kind of rules,” Hanney commented. “News flash – we don’t have anything right now.”
        The ordinance was passed by a vote of 2 to 1, with Supervisor Brian Doremus opposing. Prior to Smith’s motion to adopt the ordinance, Doremus in fact made a motion specifically not to adopt. His motion failed, however, for lack of a second. Doremus reiterated the belief that the broad international code was not a good fit for Marlborough, noting that only six out of sixteen neighboring townships have adopted property maintenance codes.
        Supervisor Charles Walter countered that, while portions of Marlborough Township are rural, there are also developments and commercial areas.
        “It’s a very complex and diverse township,” Walter said. “That’s why we need something comprehensive.”
Doremus went on to state that both of his fellow supervisors’ properties could be found in violation of the new ordinance if adopted.
        “Are you willing to be the first recipients of fines?” Doremus asked.
         Both Joan Smith and Charlie Walter stated they would be willing to accept the first fines. Smith went on to add that Marlborough Township officials in the past had used the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code as a guide for enforcement but had done so without adopting the code officially.
        Officials adopted the existing, comprehensive international property and maintenance code 2009 with changes that included, among others: clearing a two-foot-wide path in publically accessible sidewalks of snow and ice within 24 hours after the cessation of the snowfall; preventing grading activities that cause concentrated storm water flow onto a neighboring parcel with the exception of approved retention areas and reservoirs, wetlands, floodplains, and other approved storm water management practices; All premises and exterior property will need to be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 12-inches. All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees or shrubs provided as landscaping or as part of a natural forested area and other exceptions; and structures and exterior property shall be kept free from rat and mice infestation.
        In addition, no more than one unlicensed or inoperative vehicle shall be parked, kept or stored in a front or side yard or driveway and no vehicle being stripped or in a state of disassembly or disrepair shall at any time be kept in a front or side yard or yard or driveway. A maximum of two unlicensed or inoperative motorized vehicles may be kept in a rear yard, 30-feet from the rear property line, provided fencing is installed to fully enclose the motorized vehicles.
        Also, any structure, which in the code official’s judgment, is so deteriorated, dilapidated or has become so out of repair as to be dangerous, unsafe, insanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation or occupancy, and that it is unreasonable to repair the structure, can be ordered to demolished and removed within 90-days of the order unless it is extended by the Township upon demonstration of a hardship by the owner. If the building is capable of being made safe by repairs, the owner can be ordered to repair and make safe and sanitary, boarded up and held for future repair or to demolished and removed at the owner’s option. If there has been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than two years, the code official shall order the owner to demolish and remove such structure, or board up until future repair. Boarding the building up for future repair shall not extend beyond one year, unless approved by the building official. 
        And buildings shall have approved address numbers placed in a position to be plainly legible and visible from the street or road fronting the property. These numbers shall contrast with their background. Address numbers shall be Arabic numerals or alphabet letters. Numbers shall be a minimum of 3-inches high; every commercial basement window that can be opened shall be supplied with rodent shields, storm windows or other protection as approved by the code official; every owner and operator of any building who rents, leases or lets one or more dwelling units or sleeping units on terms, either expressed or implied, to furnish heat to the occupants thereof shall supply heat during the period from Oct. 1 to May 1 to maintain a temperature of not less than 68°F (20°C) in all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms. 
        Violations of the building code could bring fines of up to $1,000 per incident or imprisonment with each day that a violation continues being deemed a separate offense.
        “There has been a history in Marlborough Township of having rules and never enforcing them,” Smith added.
After the motion passed, over half of the citizens in attendance walked out of the meeting, voicing opposition as they left.
        In other business, supervisors adopted a $1,734,310 2013 operating budget that will maintain the municipal tax millage rate for the township at 2.25. The budget passed by a vote of 2 to 1 with Doremus again opposing. Doremus had opposed advertisement of the budget last month after making a motion to freeze staff wages that failed for lack of a second.





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