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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2005

City housing bill under study

During an agenda meeting yesterday, Toledo City Council decided that the Ford administration's proposed "point-of-sale" legislation needed extensive examination before it would be ready for any kind of vote.

The law would require Toledo residential property owners to get a building inspection - and have any violations addressed - before selling, and threatens those who do not follow it with a first-degree misdemeanor and a $10,000 fine.

Council members George Sarantou, Betty Shultz, and Rob Ludeman all said they are opposed to the legislation, which was sent to the council's community and neighborhood development committee, whose chairman is Michael Ashford.

Council member Karyn McConnell Hancock added during the meeting that council is working to reassemble a task force, created under former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, to look into housing issues. The task force would be charged with reviewing the legislation and making recommendations to council.

In other matters, council debated its support of a Special Improvement District that would tax businesses in a carved-out area downtown in exchange for additional cleaning, safety, and marketing services.

The district, managed by Downtown Toledo Inc., would begin charging fees next year, though 17 building owners and several renters have written letters of complaint, some saying they will leave if charged.

The council expects to receive a report by Friday from a board set up to review complaints about the district's assessments. On July 26, the board heard from over a dozen building owners who mostly expressed anger about the district.

The district has 108 building owners. Those representing 63 percent of the district's front footage signed petitions in support of it. The council approved it with a 12-0 vote in January.

Councilman Bob McCloskey expressed concerns about businesses threatening to leave, and Councilman Ellen Grachek added that the city "needs to protect these minority interests."

But Councilman Phillip Copeland observed that only a fraction of the business owners in the district complained.

Law Director Barbara Herring told council it could not dissolve the district - that building owners representing 20 percent of the property value in the district would have to petition council to dissolve it.

But Ms. Herring added that only council could enforce the assessments.

Discussion of the district was sent to council's committee-of-the-whole for further review.



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