Markle TC tables unsafe building ordinance to study wording

Wording in the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development’s unsafe building ordinance caused the adoption vote to be tabled while Markle Town Council members peruse the document.

Marla Stambazze, of the DCD, brought the unsafe building ordinance before the council during its regular meeting on Wednesday, July 17, in order to make what is described as “minor changes.”

Councilman Matthew Doss, who is an attorney, said he was concerned about wording in the ordinance. As an example, he cited Section 5, which addresses access to make property inspections.

“Just from a legal aspect of it, this is probably more geared toward the safety of residents and the people who go in there,” he said, adding that he has checked the same ordinance in other towns such as Bluffton, Chesterton and Huntington and says their wording has “more verbiage.”

Doss said that Bluffton’s ordinance notes that entry for inspections will “normally be made during daylight or operating hours.”

“Chesterton says ‘unreasonable delays in allowing them to come in shall be a violation of the article,’” he said. “If they do something that prevents that from happening, that gives us a little bit more teeth there. Again, it’s something that we might think about.”

He was also concerned with the language on after-hours inspections and giving occupants 24-hour notice of inspections.

“I’d like to alleviate some problems before they become problems,” he added. “At the same time, I’d also like not giving money to attorneys to fight those problems.”

Stambazze said state law mandates that inspectors cannot enter buildings unless someone has requested them to come in.

“An unsafe building is not ‘health.’ That’s the health law,” she added. “Most of the time we accompany the health department. He (the health inspector) can go in at any time. But unsafe housing, we have to be invited in. And that’s what we do. We give notices 10 days prior to the inspection.”

Town Clerk-Treasurer Carolyn Hamilton told the council the DCD ordinance has to be uniform for all of the county’s towns.

“They have procedures they follow to get this stuff done,” she said. “Any objections would go back to our town attorney to review. … If they don’t have the correct procedures this could end up costing our town, and that’s $135 an hour to start the research.”

With Councilman Aaron McClary absent from the meeting, Doss and Councilman Mark Hamilton agreed to table the ordinance until the next meeting on Aug. 21, when all three councilmen will be present.

In other business, Town Superintendent Rick Asher said the Community Crossings grants have been applied for to continue street and sidewalk improvements in the town.

Also, Carolyn Hamilton reported that a public hearing will be held at the Aug. 21 council meeting on the proposed 2020 budget. Adoption of the budget is slated to take place at the town’s Sept. 18 meeting.