City board strikes middle ground with first codes rulings

The city housing board of appeals had its first meeting Monday to actually handle appeals resulting from Williamsport tougher rental property ordinance.

The meeting yielded a mixed bag of results.

A rental property at 727 Hepburn Street, closed under rules in the rental ordinance for alleged drug and gun activities by a tenant, was reopened, although the 3-2 vote to reopen it may have been misunderstood.

Landlords at the meeting said the board didn’t mean to vote that way and that the majority wanted to keep the apartment closed for six months.

In another appeal, the landlord reached a settlement with the city allowing him to reopen the third floor apartment by July 1. Tenants where more than $10,000 in heroin, guns and money were seized have been evicted and the landlord has distributed letters of apology to neighbors on Louisa Street.

In the two other appeals, the board upheld closures for up to six months for failure by landlords to properly monitor tenants’ activities.

We have two takes from the meeting.

If the board really meant to vote 3-2 to close the Hepburn Street apartment for another six months, it should reconvene quickly and express its true intentions.

But in any case, the lack of predictability in the board’s decisions shows credibility. And that’s a good thing.

The appeals board’s job is not to be a rubber stamp for city government or a bleeding heart for every complaining landlord.

Middle-ground thinking and decision making was the tone of the first meeting, which only strengthens a key part of the city’s tougher rental ordinance, the appeal process.