Rental registry ordinance repealed
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | August 21,2013
Photo by Len Emery
Selectman Dave Yesman pushes for the repeal of the rental registry ordinance outside Riverside Middle School in Springfield on Tuesday.
SPRINGFIELD — Voters repealed the new rental registry ordinance Tuesday by a 37-vote margin.
With only 11 percent of the registered voters going to the polls, the tally was 376-339 against the new registry.
Selectman David Yesman, a local landlord and real estate agent who organized the petition drive against the new ordinance, said he was surprised at the margin of victory.
“I guess that’s close enough,” Yesman said Tuesday night. “I thought it would be (passed) by a greater margin.”
Yesman said he hoped the Select Board would take up the matter of a pared-down rental registry at its next board meeting
Yesman and other landlords said the additional level of inspection and review — and hefty $800 a day potential fines — were unnecessary and counterproductive.
The impetus for the new ordinance was a town effort to crack down on negligent landlords renting to less-than-desirable tenants.
At Monday night’s public hearing on the controversial ordinance, which was only adopted in May, Yesman and other landlords said they supported having a registry, but not one tied to inspections by local and state officials.
Kristi Morris, chairman of the Select Board, said he wasn’t surprised at the defeat but was disappointed at the low turnout. The timing of the special town meeting to repeal the ordinance was set by state law governing repeals, and the timing couldn’t have been worse, he said, with few people in town during the end of summer.
“A high voter turnout was not in the cards,” he said, adding that he expected 300 more voters, or about 1,000 people to turn out.
Morris and Selectman Michael Knoras said the board probably would not drop the idea of a registry, but would start work at its next meeting to craft something acceptable to the town.
Morris said the board had two options, that the board could “drop it entirely” or send it back to the ordinance committee for discussion.
Knoras and Selectwoman Stephanie Gibson Thompson serve on the ordinance committee, and Knoras said they got help from Town Manager Robert Forguites, Fire Chief Russell Thompson (no relation to the selectwoman), Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda and Zoning Administrator Bill Kearns, who is also an attorney.
“We started this in January, it was adopted in May,” said Knoras, adding that it was not a quick review.
Knoras said the now-dead ordinance combined several existing Springfield ordinances with the idea of a registry. Tuesday’s defeat does not repeal the other, older ordinances that deal with fire safety inspections.
Morris said the state Division of Fire Safety still has the authority, along with the town’s health officer, to inspect any apartment.
Many landlords who spoke at the hearing said they weren’t opposed to a registry of sorts and of the town fire department having a list of properties and the number of residents for fire-safety concerns.
Yesman, who spearhead the move against the ordinance and voted against it in May, thanked his fellow landlords for banding together and fighting it.
“I just wanted to thank everybody for their efforts. The landlords helped out tremendously with a lot of work and money,” he said.