First, I want to thank all those who were in attendance for the hearing on Bill No. 12-02 regardless of which side of the issue you are supporting, who have taken time from their busy schedules who wanted to address the Livability Code. I want to also thank my colleagues who shared their meaningful input as well on this bill and the task force who dedicated countless hours of their time to assist in updating a section of the code which has not been meaningfully amended since its enactment in 1988.
Recently, on Feb. 8, the General Assembly heard HB644 (entitled Environment – Reducing the Incidence of
Also, back on Jan. 20, the General Assembly heard SB196 (entitled Public Safety – Building Codes – Balcony Inspections, also known as Jonathan's Law) which requires a political subdivision to conduct inspections of specified multifamily dwellings with balconies at least once every five years to ensure that each balcony meets the requirements of the applicable local housing code or the Minimum Livability Code. It also authorizes a political subdivision to authorize a third party to conduct the periodic inspections or charge a fee for a periodic inspection. This bill is in the Assembly now following the tragic loss of a young boy who fell to his death after the balcony he was standing on gave way. This bill has very good intentions. But it is a piece of legislation that, like HB644, has incredible ramifications for our multi-family dwelling property owners, like our apartment complex owners who have hundreds of units that this bill would include.
These Bills are a problem for our county if they pass. They are a detriment to our rental property owners who fall into these categories and because they are so poorly drafted, the financial impact is greater to the county, to the public, and to our employees who would be responsible for handling some of the aspects of these laws. Aside from the fiscal considerations of these bills, they also weigh on the necessity of having a registration procedure within our Livability Code. One of the major changes to Chapter 162 is the registration procedure. With the uncertainty of the potential passage of these bills, and to avoid duplicative efforts of having to return to this issue, it is prudent to simply await the results of the General Assembly and address this item at a future date.
Further, [a section of county bill 12-02] refers to an International Property Maintenance Code as establishing the property standards for rentals within Harford County. Unfortunately, we received word that Harford County may seek to exempt itself from certain portions of that code. For these reasons, it is best to withdraw this Bill at this time; a Bill, by the way, that was filed before both of these Bills.
When the Task Force convened to update Chapter 162 of the Livability Code, we did so with the sincerest desire to draft legislation which reflected the collective input of the community, the administration and the council. In light of HB644, SB196 and the impact of changes from the International Property Maintenance Code in November there is a concern that this bill may not be consistent with those intentions. I believe, therefore, it was my duty as the sponsor, to withdraw this bill until the General Assembly moves on HB644 and SB196 and the changes made to the International Property Maintenance Code are fully realized. Hopefully, those bills will be defeated or substantially amended.
In addition, the article that appeared in The Aegis on page 4A, dated Feb. 15, in regards to the protest, I was successful in contacting all my people, that I was withdrawing the bill and it was not necessary for them to come, so that cut down the amount of people that were coming, substantially. Also [County Council President Billy] Boniface's comments that it was "not true" that he received "threats because of the legislation", is exactly what he told me. And he said he was going to call the Sheriff's Office for additional support. I did not receive any threats. I guess Boniface has selective memory.
Harford County Councilman Council Dion F. Guthrie