Maumee Residents Express Their Opposition To Proposed Rental Property Ordinance

BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Over 100 Maumee residents attended the January 17 meeting of Maumee City Council to express their opposition to a proposed city ordinance that would impose new regulations on non-owner-occupied rental property within the city of Maumee.

After council had worked its way through most of the Tuesday night meeting, it was time for the citizens comments portion of the agenda, which allows citizens a three-minute time period in which to express their views to the mayor, city administrator and all seven city council members.

As first reported in The Mirror on January 12, Maumee City Council members heard the first reading of proposed Ordinance 002-2023 at the January 7 meeting of council, sparking a long discussion on some of the details of the ordinance during the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Introduced by city administrator Patrick Burtch, the proposed ordinance was requested by Mayor Rich Carr as a tool to regulate rundown rental properties within city limits in the interest of public safety and to eliminate blight within the city. Its primary goal was to protect tenants from irresponsible landlords who neglect their properties in a manner that would result in unsanitary or unsafe living conditions.

Burtch provided his firsthand experience with such a property. During the holidays, Burtch assisted city officials with helping a young woman and her two children who were living in a deteriorated rental property with frozen water pipes, an abundance of black mold and a rat infestation.

Burtch told council members at the January 7 meeting that the first reading of the ordinance was offered to allow council members plenty of time to discuss and amend the ordinance before its third and final reading. 

In its January 12, story, The Mirror mistakenly reported that the second reading of the ordinance was scheduled to take place at the January 17 council meeting, followed by the third and final reading at the February 6 council meeting. 

Burtch later explained at the January 17 meeting that the city had no intentions of having the second and third readings in successive weeks, as is usually the case in such matters. He wanted council to be aware of the ordinance, and to have enough time to think about it, and that is why there was only a first reading scheduled on the calendar.

Following public reaction to The Mirror article on January 12, as well as separate negative reactions from local realtors and landlords posting angry messages in local Facebook groups, it became increasingly clear that the 45-page ordinance was going to be a hot topic of discussion at the January 17 council meeting.

A post was started on Facebook by Maumee resident, real estate agent and landlord Megan Hornsby, calling for members of the public to sign a petition to stop the ordinance. She also encouraged residents to show up in force at the January 17 meeting to voice their opposition to the ordinance. The petition also called for the firing of Burtch.

Mayor Carr read a prepared statement prior to opening the public comments segment at the January 17 meeting.

“The city of Maumee is a first-ring suburb of a major urban city,” the mayor began. “The city of Toledo has declared violent gun crime to be a public health crisis. There have been many studies conducted which have shown a direct correlation between blight and criminal activity. When blight is allowed to exist and crime follows, neighborhoods begin to deteriorate, and property values decrease significantly. There is a responsibility to residents in our city who maintain their properties and take pride in their homes to be proactive in preventing blight from being tolerated.”

The mayor went on to say, “There are many reasons for blight in suburban communities. The most prevalent cited are lack of maintenance by landlords, banks and mortgage companies foreclosing on properties but never taking ownership, and a lack of a municipal property code that protects the integrity of neighborhoods when stringently enforced.

“For many Maumee residents, their home is their greatest financial investment. We need to protect our residents’ interests. The house next door or the house down the street should not be the obligation of a resident to report.

“To that end, an initial draft of an extremely transparent ordinance was introduced. A meeting was held with a Maumee resident who is a prominent real estate agent, a Maumee resident who owns perhaps more rental units than any other individual or entity in our city, a Maumee resident who is both a realtor and a landlord as well as from a family that has a long commitment to our community, the executive director of the Toledo Area Board of Realtors, the director of the Maumee Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Maumee administrator, the city of Maumee law director and myself.

“This is a much more productive manner in which to discuss concerns and objections than threatening legal action, calling for the termination of a city employee, alleging the ordinance is discriminatory, or making public representations as to the ordinance which are not accurate.

“This group will continue to meet until a final ordinance is ready to be submitted to council for its consideration for passage,” the mayor vowed. “There is no timetable set. We will take the time to have meaningful discussion, but it will be addressed in a very prompt manner as the objective of the ordinance is to take action to prevent blight now.”

“There is a growing number of rental properties in Maumee,” the mayor continued. “While Ohio laws require rental properties to be registered with the Lucas County Auditor, too often there is no compliance. Maumee lacks authority to enforce state statute. By having our own registry with more specific registration requirements, we can address problem properties more expeditiously.

“There are laws in place to protect tenants,” Carr added. “However, from 38 years of experience as an attorney who has represented real estate brokers, real estate agents, title companies, landlords and tenants, I can state unequivocally that many single-parent/children-occupied rental properties will not take such action out of fear that their lease will be terminated at its expiration, resulting in the children having to move and possibly having to enroll in a new school.

“Over the past two years, we have created stronger regulations and more active enforcement of our city code in our motels and hotels. It was absolutely needed and, in a challenge to such action in the United States Federal Court, the judge responded that the city of Maumee is doing exactly what we should be doing,” the mayor stated.

Following his remarks, Carr opened the floor to residents who wished to address council. The usual citizen comment rules applied, with a three-minute time limit for each individual to express their views.

First up was Aubrey Hornsby, of 602 W. Harrison St. 

“I appreciate everything that city council is doing. This cannot be an easy job,” Hornsby began. “I don’t think any of us believe that any of you would purposely vote for something that would negatively impact on Maumee. It is also my understanding that when you all come to a decision that has been made, and it is not in the best interest of Maumee, it has been reconsidered and it has changed.

“All we’re trying to do here is to explain to everyone that this ordinance is one of those bad decisions that not only has an effect on non-owner occupancy, and all of our renters and rental property owners, but I want to continue to push the narrative that there was probably some misinformation that was presented to all of city council, either one way or another.

“I have talked to a lot of people on this side of the podium that have some fantastic ideas than can help renters and property owners that will mitigate blight and help with the safety and health of every Maumee citizen,” Hornsby stated.

“That being said, can we first do the appropriate research and studies on how serious this issue is, or could be, then create a decent-sized panel or committee out of business people; but we need a panel of renters, agents, investors and property owners so we can come up with a better solution. After that, we can implement the plan, evaluate it over time, and make changes as needed. Then we can work together as a community,” Hornsby said.

“So, my ask is this: Let’s start over and assume that all of you are reasonable people and that all of us are reasonable people, and that we can come up with a reasonable solution,” he concluded.

Next up was Anna Mills, of 4741 Elmhurst Dr., Toledo, representing property at 650 Miami Manor in Maumee.

Mills stated that she has been a lead-abatement contractor for the city, county and state for the past 47 years, including work as a contractor for the city of Maumee during all that time. She has also been a realtor for 47 years and a property investor for four years, providing housing for over 80 families.

“The thing is that I think what they’re talking about when they say these things are already on the books, is the fact that they’re there to go after the bad housing as opposed to do all the housing, which makes it unaffordable for more than three-quarters of the families that I provide housing for,” Mills stated. 

“We’re just trying to also preserve affordable housing. It’s never good to go after a whole industry instead of just going after the bad ones. I don’t think that’s really too much to ask, and after reading through (the ordinance), just because I am a housing provider for these people, I do not wish to become a felon every time they may be destroying the house and I have to go in and fix it. Those are pretty heavy implications.

“I just ask you to have the forums you are talking about. Please think about it, and let us help you,” Mills concluded.

Cindy Young spoke next, saying she represents several properties in Maumee on Sacket and Elco streets and on Shelly Avenue, among others.

She stated that rental property is in high demand in Maumee because people want to be near good schools, their church and their work. Young said that she fears that the fees associated with the new ordinance will force her out of business because she will have no alternative but to raise the rental fees on her properties.

“Right now, a three-bedroom, one-bath rental in Maumee starts at about $1,500 a month, and I predict it will go up closer to $2,000, and it will absolutely put a lot of renters out of the housing market in Maumee. You’re going to lose some good people,” she warned.

She said that under the ordinance, the inspections will negatively impact the landlord’s ability to collect rent. “How, in the name of God, am I supposed to pay my bills?” she asked.

Young said that the standards in the ordinance are too strict. “I have very high standards,” she said. “Matter of fact, I would be surprised if my house would pass this, and I live in a half-million-dollar house. I live in a very nice community and my house would not pass these (regulations). These aren’t easy standards.”

Young also cited the strict regulations concerning installation of fire walls in the garage. “How in the world are you going to do that? Tear up the ceiling if it’s an up-and-down unit, side by side?”

Dave Poeppelmeier, of 318 Kingsbury St., spoke next. He said that he was a physical therapist for 20 years and worked in home health care for the last five or six years of his career, which included visiting Maumee patients in their houses. 

“From a humanitarian aspect, there are a lot of homeowners in Maumee that live in horrible conditions, but you don’t see it from the outside. I’ve seen mice crawling across the floor while I’m trying to work with somebody. 

He added that “a lot of the problems that we are having with the Toledo lead ordinance is that it is not equally enforced.” He said that the city should also be looking at owner-occupied properties that are in violation of the code, not only on the outside, but on the inside.

Richard Hamilton, of 24311 Dunbridge Rd. in Perrysburg, spoke next.

“I apologize if I wrote one of the emails that offended some of you,” Hamilton began. “Mine was fairly pointed, but I would like to say, mayor, I agree with you. We’ve got a problem.

“I have a vested interest in properties in Maumee, also. What I would petition you for, and this council, is to allow us to be part of the solution. I will volunteer to sit on a committee and come up with other options. This option, I have been through frontwards and backwards and sideways. There are a lot of issues that are problems. We would like to be part of the solution.

“Now, you indicated, and I appreciate that, there’s a first reading and a second reading and that’s a process you go through. What many of us would like to volunteer for, and help with, is creating something that is going to be good from the start, rather than go through this process. And I understand the challenges that we have in creating a good ordinance that would work and target the real problems rather than the difficulties.

“I have an engineering background and I’ve looked at some of this, and some of the costs that could be coming down the road could be substantial, particularly if we required it. 

“For example, with insulation we put in R-13, but some of these properties still have knob and tube wiring. You cannot put insulation over knob and tube wiring. Now you have a fire hazard. So, that requires not only just insulation, but you also have to rewire the whole house.

“Now, you’ve got a $15,000 to $20,000 bill that a poor landlord has got to figure out how to pay, and in the meantime, he’s not getting any rent and the tenant won’t be able to stay in the building while you’re trying to rewire. 

“That’s just one of many examples. So, we’d like to help. We’re not here just to beat you guys up. There is the tendency for some of us to get a little zealous, but we would like to help,” Hamilton concluded.

Next up was Jeff Wilcox, of 2431 Oak Grove Place, representing the Property Investors Network.

Wilcox thanked the mayor for his comments and the fact there has already been a roundtable meeting regarding discussion of the ordinance.

“Let’s target the problem, not just shoot a shotgun at everything that’s out there,” Wilcox said.

He stated that he read the January 12 article in The Mirror and would like to know exactly how extensive the problem is in Maumee. “Is it three houses? Is it 300 houses? What is it? Let’s target the problem.”

The seventh speaker was Steve Werner, of 1108 Winghaven Rd.

“I read in The Mirror that the city of Maumee is asking for an ordinance to ‘put some teeth’ into the enforcement of neglected rentals. Seems maybe the wording was wrong, but it seems like it’s an overreach of trying to possibly come up with some more revenue. I’m not quite sure. I haven’t read a lot on it,” he stated.

“I think somebody else also mentioned that owner-occupied houses are probably neglected as well. There are great tenants that are law-abiding that choose to rent or lease, so that they don’t have to handle repairs, etc. Some lease for other reasons, such as moving soon, retiring, up-and-coming marriage, saving for a down payment,” he listed. “Some lease their autos because they don’t want to deal with repairs.

“You mentioned blight. I have a ‘go to work’ vehicle and it’s a little ‘blight.’ It’s got some rust on it, and it leaks a little oil, and my family rides around in a very nice vehicle that they’re safe in. When are you guys going to start asking me to do a little rust repair on my personal vehicle?” he asked.

The next speaker was Charles Brainard, of 5971 Whiteacre Rd.

“I grew up in Maumee and joined the Marine Corps to try to make something of myself. I am now a professional property manager. I go to classes. I learn how to take care of my properties. I enjoy what I do. The properties that I have are nice quality properties. They don’t get $4,000 per month rent. I get enough to pay the bills,” he said.

“This process that you are going through right now, I’m looking at it, and it scares me. I’m afraid of what it’s going to do to the business that I’ve built over the years. Call it what you want. I see this as a money grab, a power grab, an invasion of my rights and my residents’ rights.

“OK, that may be a little excessive, but this is the way I feel about it. Every property that I own, I would live in except for a couple. I’m old and I’m fat and I don’t do steps anymore. Second floors are out for me. Sorry.

“Most of the properties that we have, they have better central air and heating systems than my own house. I do take care of my properties. Don’t throw the net over me. Go after that person that owned the property with the rats.

“The people you see out here are out here because they care about what they do – because they care about their properties. Go after the bad people and use the laws that you have in the system now. Go after those people and fix the problem. You don’t need to attack everybody. Find the bad people and fix that. 

“My three minutes are probably up, so before I get evicted, I’m going to step down,” Brainard concluded, as laughter and applause erupted from the crowd.

The ninth speaker was Michael Ohlemacher, of 610 W. Harrison St.

“I have a financial practice,” Ohlemacher began, “and I was reading some of the provisions (in the new ordinance) and one of them said you can’t transfer property if somebody gets a citation, unless the person taking the property guarantees the citation.

“I can tell you that there are many families in Maumee that aren’t going to understand how that works, and their family members aren’t going to have the finances to come in and pay for those repairs necessary to sell the house. No investor will take the property with the citation on it because of the liability that you guys are leveraging against it.

“So, I think you need to review that clause. Think of the everyday grandma who passed away and the kids get the house. Grandma couldn’t keep up with the house. How is there going to be some type of consideration, because a lot of times that house will end up in a trust in some way, shape or form.

“If you tie it up, they’re going to be even more blighted. You’re going to have rats and you’re going to be in probate. You’re going to issue what you guys are saying are misdemeanors for the property. That’s going to cost more money, and a lot of these kids don’t have any money for you to go after, anyway. So, that is one consideration,” Ohlemacher pointed out.

“The other thing is being collaborative with the community, I think, will eliminate the lawsuits like you’ve seen in Jackson (Michigan). Water bills have gone up – I think we’ve all experienced that – and I don’t think the city needs another lawsuit. So, taking a minute back to see how we can all be on the same page and not see that repeated, might not be a bad thing for the city,” Ohlamacher concluded.

Next up was Mike Fleck, of 6611 Providence-Neapolis-Swanton Rd. in Swanton.

“I have properties in the city of Toledo,” Fleck said, “and when a tenant is doing something wrong and they’ve got junk all over the place, this neighborhood thing sends me a letter and tells me I’m going to get a fine within 30 days if I don’t remedy the situation, so I always do. I don’t understand how you could have any more of a problem than that in the city of Maumee.

“If you have somebody patrolling the neighborhoods, or if a neighbor calls in, you find out who owns it and you send that letter to them, and they have to remedy the situation,” Fleck said.

Gino Torio, of 816 Johnson St., spoke next.

He said that his viewpoint is from that of a coach of youth sports teams.

“The main issue is affordability of rent. There is an unintended consequence caused by this ordinance, at least as the ordinance was first proposed.

“I see my kids have moved to Maumee because where they came from there wasn’t as good of a school. The same with the neighborhood. So, while we’re trying to protect tenants, you also have to recognize that if they can’t afford to be here, you’re not protecting them.

“Affordability is important, and so we don’t want to drive that out. I think the economic diversity that comes in this town is a value, that we see a lot of different types of kids and the kids learn from each other, and I think that’s good.

“And you’re going to drive rents up, the way (the ordinance) is written right now. Period. I don’t think that’s a good thing. It might make my property value go up, but it won’t make the quality of life of the families that live here go up,” Torio concluded.

Jaime Pearson, of 402 Harris Ct., spoke next.

“I wasn’t planning on speaking at all, so please bear with me as I go through this. You’ve heard from a lot of landlords and you’ve heard from a lot of property owners. I am a renter in Maumee,” Pearson said.

“I have amazing landlords and they are here somewhere. I don’t even know who they are, if I am being honest with you. I would just ask that you consider my opinion, my input, as a tenant of Maumee and Maumee City Schools. Consider us when you are trying to protect us because some of us don’t need to be protected. So, please consider us.

“I would volunteer to be part of a group, a committee that would help to find something that it attainable for all parties, including tenants,” she concluded.

Michael Temple, of 2404 Gibley St. in Toledo, was the next speaker.

“I am a landlord,” Temple said. “I want to ask city council to review that legislation, the proposed ordinance. Mr. Mayor, when you said it does not cause the rent to go up, that is not true, because this is more than an inspection clause the way it’s written. It actually forces very, very expensive upgrades on housing providers – housing providers who may have done nothing wrong but have an old house. 

“Old houses have issues with insulation. They have insulation with wiring, and to address those things from a safety perspective is one thing. To force people to address those issues, simply because they are old, is a different issue.

“If you do that, the way this is written, and you do not allow people to even sell the property unless they force somebody to take the citation, which – let’s face it – no homeowner is going to do that. No investor is going to do that. That house is going to sit there, and the bank might end up taking it back. If you’re trying to avoid blight, this is not the way to do it.

“You cannot force these massive expenses onto mom-and-pop property investors without having an impact on the cost of the rent, assuming they don’t go bankrupt, and forcing them into massive upgrades. Now, if they have a dilapidated property, if there’s trash outside, you have code enforcement. Use it. Don’t hurt the tenants and don’t hurt the small property owners.

“We’re all trying to do a good job at providing high-quality housing for people and you’re not making it easier with the way this legislation is written. Thank you,” Temple concluded.

Saga Shoffner, of 1666 River Rd., The Landings, spoke was the 14th and final speaker of the evening.

“I wasn’t expecting to speak tonight, either,” Shoffner said.

“I moved here 12 years ago for a job, and that job and I parted ways in 2015. My husband and I stayed. This is an incredible place to live. I’ve seen a lot of changes. I came from the West Coast. I grew up in Oregon, most of my life.

“What I am hearing this evening is an opportunity; I’m praying for a really substantial opportunity for this community to come together and attack this issue differently than was originally proposed. A lot of emotion in the room, including me.

“So, I hope that council and mayor, you are able to take this opportunity and pull more people into this conversation, because you’re right. The concerns about blight, the concerns about violence in our community and what’s happening, we need to be able to address, and I think we need to be able to address it holistically and with lots of different points of view,” Shoffner stated.

The mayor concluded the comments portion of the meeting by saying, “I want to thank all of you. The committee can be expanded. I will reach out to some of you who spoke this evening and welcome you to the next meeting when it’s scheduled.

“We’re going to continue to have dialogue on this issue. Again, it was just a first draft of it. We will meet and have discussions and then there will be the opportunity for further discussion after that.

“So, believe me, we want to work on this. I will expand the committee and we’ll address several of the issues. In addition to that, we will try to post a video trying to address some of the statements that were made this evening and put that on the city website.”

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