Council votes down property maintenance code

FRONT ROYAL –  After months of discussion, the Town Council at its regular Monday meeting voted 4-0 against the implementation of a property maintenance code.

The vote came after a public hearing during which no one spoke.  Councilmen Jacob Meza and Christopher Morrison were absent. None of the councilmen commented on reasons for voting against the program.

If it passed, the town’s code would have been amended to include the state’s property maintenance code, with the purpose of protecting the health, safety and welfare of citizens. Establishment of a previously discussed building inspections district was not included in the code council voted down Monday.

Planning Director Jeremy Camp previously said the code is the next step the town could take in requiring minimum maintenance standards. The town can now only declare buildings nuisances, which is difficult because it requires a public health official to state it is a public safety threat.

Camp noted that adoption of the code would have helped the town ward off troubled buildings before they fell into extremely poor conditions.

If passed, the code would have required property owners to comply with written notices of necessary building repairs within 30 days. The property owner would have been responsible for any necessary costs.

Property owners would have to remove, repair, or secure building, walls, or structures that may endanger public health or safety under the proposed code. The town could have only enforced repairs on buildings’ exteriors.

The code states it would have ensured buildings are “maintained at the least possible cost consistent with health, safety, energy conservation and water conservation.”

The council has discussed the maintenance code in several work sessions, and held a previous public hearing on the matter in August 2017. The council delayed voting on the code’s adoption in November.

Clerk of Council Jennifer Berry said that one or both of the absent council members — Meza or Morrison — could bring the inspections program back up for vote.