Charleston Reconsiders ‘Nuisance’ Ordinance

October 12, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveDuring the Sept. 14 Charleston City Council meeting, there was a surprising absence of discussion regarding a proposed “nuisance” ordinance.

The ordinance, which makes landlords and property managers also responsible for the trash and noise generated by tenants, passed first reading without dissent, a likely reflection on the weariness of council members after a long meeting dominated by discussion of the Union Pier Plan.

Some council members had second thoughts during the Sept. 28 meeting and a decision on ordinance’s second reading was deferred. It was not that members were all opposed to the new ordinance; they wanted it reviewed after consideration of views of opponents.

The ordinance, which can be seen here, has been years in the making, according to comments by some council members. It was also championed by the Radcliffborough Neighborhood Association, which has been particularly vexed by the trash and litter of students, who represent a large percentage of residents.

As at the previous meeting, representatives of the association spoke in support of the ordinance at the Sept. 28 meeting. But unlike the previous meeting, there were speakers who were opposed, as well.

They represented Realtor and landlord groups. The latter claimed that they were being made liable for actions of people over whom they had no control. In addition, they pointed out that other regulations and laws limited the ability of managers and owners to take effective action such as moving to evict offending parties.

Mayor Joe Riley spoke in favor of the ordinance and suggested that the Realtors’ and landlords’ views were too extreme. They would become liable to prosecution only if the were aware of the transgressions and did nothing to stop them.

Overall, it seemed most council members were in favor of the ordinance, although councilman member Dean C. Riegel thought it was unnecessary and that present laws were adequate.

Some felt the new ordinance had been formed and presented without input from some of the groups – such as Realtors and landlords – that would be affected. But as councilman Blake Hallman said, if the ordinance had been 10 years in the making what did a deferral of two weeks matter for it to be reviewed.

The majority of the council agreed.

It is expected the ordinance will be on the agenda for the next council meeting, set for Oct. 12.

Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.