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North Country News

Plattsburgh City Council Passes New Rental Laws Despite Concerns From Landlords

Plattsburgh City Hall
WAMC Photo
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Plattsburgh City Hall

The city of Plattsburgh held a public hearing Thursday on a proposed local law that would impose new registry and enforcement provisions for rental units in the city. While numerous speakers warned city officials to revise the measure to avoid potential problems, the Common Council voted to approve the law immediately following the comment period.
Most of the people who spoke during the public hearing regarding proposed Local law P-6 opposed to the measure, and most were landlords or developers. Neil Fessette is a realtor and rental property owner who spoke on behalf of a number of landlords opposed to the law.  “ It's clear to me that what's being considered tonight is a penalty on the majority of us for the sins of a few. We believe that the proposed law is far overreaching and will have many unintended consequences for landlords and tenants alike.”

The law requires landlords obtain rental permits every three years. Critics of the law pointed to provisions that revoke the permit if even one bill for items such as taxes or water are unpaid. Landlords say the additional costs will be passed on and if permits are revoked all tenants’ residency is at risk.
Northshore Apartments co-owner Tim Burke urged city leaders not to brand all landlords negatively and as high-occupancy owners.  “To me the overall tone of law is punitive. I urge you to send this bill back to committee to zero in on the problems that you have in the city and to limit the changes that you make in the law to those situations that can't be addressed under the current law.”

Following the public comment the city’s attorney presented a required series of questions to councilors regarding the environmental review analysis pertaining to the new local law. Ward 1 Democrat Rachelle Armstrong said she was uncomfortable moving forward and moved to table any action. When the vote tied Democratic Mayor Colin Read voted to continue action. Armstrong then abstained from responding.  “I'm not really sure that I understand the full, all of the ramifications of any one of the questions.”

The council as a whole determined no adverse environmental impacts and could then immediately consider the local law. Ward 5 Democrat Patrick McFarlin moved to suspend further discussion and action.  “With the amount of people that have spoke, the amount of  concerns, I would make a motion to table. I think that deserves looking into. So I would make a motion to table this.”
Ward 4 Independent Peter Ensel: “Second.”

That vote again tied and again the mayor voted to continue action. Armstrong objected to the quick vote.  “To vote without discussion or deliberation or a period of time where we are being thoughtfully considerate of complaints is irresponsible. I really don't understand the rush. I think it's obstinate and I'm ashamed of it.”

Ward 6 Democrat Jeff Moore moved for an immediate vote. The council again deadlocked and the mayor passed the measure.  During final public comments KLM Development co-owner Kye Ford, a landlord and builder, criticized the process.  “It's disappointing that a law is introduced for public comment and then the same night it is voted upon. Why wasn’t this introduced two weeks ago so stakeholders could come to the table? It's rushed government and in my opinion I don't think that's good governance.”

Friday afternoon, Mayor Read announced the city is seeking representatives from tenant and landlord groups to form a Tenant-Landlord Committee that will help develop policies for the new law.