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Committee sends Housing Task Force amendments to council

WILLMAR -- Ordinance amendments suggested over a year ago by the Mayor's Housing Task Force to address neighborhood issues will be forwarded to the Willmar City Council for consideration.

The ordinance amendments were presented to the council's Community Development Committee Wednesday evening.

The council-appointed task force spent about four months studying housing and zoning ordinances. The task force was appointed after citizens complained that conditions were deteriorating in some neighborhoods.

The task force completed its work and recommended some changes to the council on Nov. 19, 2007. The council directed city staff to draft amendments that tighten standards. The proposed changes have been drafted and were presented to the committee for discussion.

The committee discussed but took no action to recommend any particular ordinance, but voted to send the amendments to the council for further discussion and introduction for adoption of any amendments the council wants to pursue.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development services, said the task force looked at a variety of issues, from parking, exterior storage and building conditions, to snow and ice problems, and weed and grass problems that can either enhance or detract from a neighborhood.

The ordinances proposed for amendment deal with exterior storage of vehicles and trailers; off-street parking of motor vehicles; exterior maintenance of residential properties; allowable time for removing snow and ice from sidewalks; responding to animal complaints and more enforcement for licensing of dogs and cats; giving the police a little better tool to deal with repeat offenders when called for loud parties or gatherings; and tightens responsibility of rental property owners for providing garbage containers for their tenants.

Some proposed ordinance highlights:

- Exterior storage and off-street parking: Would limit exterior storage of certain types of currently-licensed recreational vehicles and certain trailers to seven units per residential unit, with each license constituting one unit; prohibits off-street parking except on conforming driveways; and defines junk motor vehicle.

- Exterior maintenance: Would tighten repair standards for the protective surface if 20 percent (previously 25 percent) is flaking or peeling; sets other repair standards for chimneys and stucco.

- Rental property: Would require every owner of rental housing to supply garbage containers. The present ordinance requires every owner of rental housing with three or more dwelling units to provide garbage containers.

- Snow, ice, dirt and rubbish removal: Would require removal within 24 hours, rather than 12 hours under the present ordinance.

- Dog and cat license check: Would require law enforcement personnel, if called to an animal complaint, to check the license for current registration.

- Noise: Would allow police to charge a person with a misdemeanor who fails to disperse from a noisy gathering or party if police are called to the noisy party or gathering a second or subsequent time.