Houghton council discusses property maintenance code

HOUGHTON – Following an initial outcry over letters sent out to some residents about code violations, Houghton City Council members discussed the reasoning behind the policy Wednesday, as well as some of the subsequent response.

In December, council members approved the International Property Maintenance Code for regulating maintenance in the city. Letters have been sent out to some residents letting them know their properties have violated part of the code, such as not having proper siding.

The letters were the source of consternation for residents at the previous City Council meeting, who accused the council of elitism and inflexibility.

“It’s not to harass or aggravate, it’s to keep people’s property values, not in the downtown area, or east Houghton, or west Houghton, [from going] downhill,” said Mayor Pro Tem Robert Megowen. “That’s the whole idea of why we have this ordinance.”

Councilor Mike Needham said the code had been discussed in public hearing leading up to the passage of the plan.

“Our intent is to work with property owners to come to good resolutions of issues,” he said. “Unlike some of the rumors, it’s not our intent to just make a command and have it done.”

City Manager Eric Waara said the code emphasis on paint and siding has to do with weather protection, and little to do with the outward appearance of the property.

After initial shock, feedback from the public has been largely positive, city officials said. In some cases, council members said, they were told it was years overdue.

“Even folks that were cited, they received a letter, they understand, they appreciate it, and they’re saying, ‘How can we work with you?'” Waara said. No residents came to Wednesday’s meeting to comment on the issue.

Waara said information is available on the city’s website, cityofhoughton.com, about programs that can provide assistance to senior citizens who may need additional resources.

Assessor and former City Manager Scott MacInnes, who wrote the letter mailed to residents, said they were also given cards to send back to the city indicating when work would be done on their property.

“The number of cards we’ve gotten back has been unbelievable,” he said. “The number of people I thought would want more time that are saying ‘We’ll be done by Sept. 1’ has been a lot.”