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City Council Ponders Landlord Licensing to Curb Main Street Problems

Westminster's Common Council said that licensing landlords may be one way to help reign in some problem residences in the Main Street corridor.

Westminster's public safety chair said the city has made strides in dealing with disorderly students, an issue brought to the Common Council earlier this month by frustrated downtown residents. But problem renters  aren't limited to students.

At the end of a council meeting Monday night, after a new set of residents lodged complaints about problem renters other than college students on East Main Street, council members said it may be time to require landlords to make better decisions through a licensing process.

A handful of downtown residents attended the earlier, March 12 meeting asking the city council and police to deal with McDaniel College students who are disruptive and disorderly late at night and on weekends.

Councilman Tony Chiavacci, chair of the public safety committee, reported at Monday night's Common Council meeting that representatives from the city, McDaniel College, campus safety and the Westminster Police Department have been working together to address the problem since the last council meeting.

Chiavacci said the city and police department will be identifying specific residences that are habitual offenders. He said the address will be flagged in a computer system and consequences could range from sanctions from the college, possible legal ramifications and city code inspections.

"We will really start looking at houses that are identified as problems and do everything we can to put pressure on the residents and landlords to get them back in line," Chiavacci said.

McDaniel College and the police department will also be working together to conduct joint patrols on West Main Street on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., Chiavacci said.

Chiavacci said that McDaniel College will be voluntarily funding some of the overtime used to conduct these weekend and late night patrols.

Not long after Chiavacci completed his report, a different group of citizens who said they live in the area of 130 East Main Street complained they are also dealing with problem renters who are disruptive and disorderly.

Jamie Prue said she has lived in her home for five years. She said the residents at one specific adress cause constant problems and she worries about the small children living in the neighborhood.

"I’m appalled, freightened, sickened," Prue said. "I am awakend every night by ... outrageous behavior, from foul language to singing to loud music to fights. I can’t begin to tell you what I have found on the sidewalk in front of that house, what I have seen carrying on on the front porch, what I have been called..."

Prue said the landlord of the problem home has received more than 100 code violations on properties he owns in Carroll County that include keeping the property clean and safe.

Jenny Gulardi, also a resident of the 130 block of East Main Street, said she would like to see the city respond as enthusiastically to the issues on her block as they did to the McDaniel College student problems.

"I wish that you guys would come to us after hearing these complaints and say, 'Hey, let's put together a task force for you guys to deal with these properties up here as well'," Gulardi said.  "Unfortuantely, I don't think we're going to get that becuase we're not McDaniel College and we don't have any money to bring to the table."

"If you're doing it for one part of the town," Gulardi said, "it would really be great to have it across the entire town."

Chiavacci said that he is in favor of exploring a licensing process for landlords.

"I feel strongly that we start moving forward with landlord licensing," Chiavacci said. "It gives us a bigger hammer to wield at problematic landlords."

Chiavacci told residents that in the short term, the police would pay attention to the addresses people were complaining about.

WestMonster March 27, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Rental licensing is absolutely needed. Please do whatever it takes to set up the program quickly.
McDaniel Student March 27, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Sorry for the length of this comment, but as a rather involved student up at the college and in town, as well as one who enjoys a few beers at ernies, I've always had an interest in seeing these three aspects of our community (McDaniel, The City and the students) get along with one another. That being said, I'd hesitate to applaude the combination of McDaniel and the Westminster PD. I do this not because I am an ignorant college student whose life revolves around partying at the residences listed above, but as a person who believes that if we realized a few things, this problem would not be an issue. First of all, McDaniel never sent out a press release to us regarding this problem and I feel like had they allowed the students of McDaniel to respond they would be less demonized in a way. Secondly, College students will party and continue to do so. This is due in large part to the nature of higher education in America today (It's essentially a very high priced summer camp). Therefore, the question is not how to combat drunk college students, but how best to control them. When campus safety pushes hard to prevent parties, these parties are moved to a place off campus. Now this is dangerous and disruptive as we have seen. One solution: A shuttle bus for McDaniel students coming back from the bar. Nobody enjoys the walk back from the bar, my friend was mugged the other day doing just that. A shuttle would be a respectful, safe and intelligent solution for this issue.
WestMonster March 27, 2012 at 07:34 PM
not a bad idea, but what about the parties in the houses that might involve people who aren't old enough to go to the bar? Also, nobody from the City sends a press release to residents' houses who are disruptive- they get fines or are arrested. College students are 18+, why do you get special warnings?
Paul Burkhardt March 28, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I don't think any kind of special warning was being requested. I think the student was looking for some discussion or debate. Anyway we were all kids and young adults once. We or most of us have had our hell rasing days and enjoyed them, I know I did. If the folks are doing something illegal, arrest them, that is what would have happened to us. If property is being destroyed they should have to replace or repair as necessary. Don't cut them any slack and the problem will get fixed. If it is health issues call the health department. What is the landlord issue, are the places unfit to live in or dangerous situations exist. I think there are already laws to control this.
Buck Harmon March 28, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Well said !
KateD March 31, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Let's clean up this city!!!
Elsie Wallick June 05, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I AGREE KATE, I've lived here all of my life of 63 yrs and we've NEVER had problems like we're having now. Let's CLEAN UP WESTMINSTER and get the ones that are causing all these PROBLEMS OUT!! We don't need those type of people here in our GOOD TOWN!
mike c. November 05, 2012 at 10:12 PM
if t.he problem is main street then deal with those properties. as long as there is no expense to the landlord because that will be past to the renter.

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