Posts tagged with Rental Registration
Lawrence no longer second-worst performing small city, new report concludes; rental registration supporter accuses landlord of ‘dirty politics’
It is not exactly the type of thing you put on a banner, but Lawrence is no longer the second-worst performing small city in America. We're now a middle-of-the-pack community.
If you remember, we previously reported on a report by the Milken Institute that found Lawrence ranked 178 out of 179 small metro areas in terms of its economic performance in its 2012 report.
Well, the Milken Institute now has put together its 2013 report, and Lawrence checks in at No. 105 out of 179 small metro areas. The report measures communities based on a number of economic statistics compiled mainly by the federal government.
Lawrence continues to suffer in the categories that measure job growth and wages. Lawrence ranked 87th in job growth for the period of 2007 to 2012. But from July 2012 to July 2013, Lawrence ranked 69th in job growth, so perhaps that is a sign the local economy is picking up.
The numbers are less encouraging on the wage front. Lawrence ranked 115th in wage growth for the period between 2006 and 2011. The report also measured wage growth for the 2010 to 2011 period. Lawrence came in 160th in the category.
But there are some notable improvements in Lawrence's numbers. In the 2012 report, Lawrence didn't crack the top 100 in any of the categories. This year, Lawrence ranks high in two categories that will please economic development leaders. Lawrence was ranked No. 2 in the category of high-tech GDP growth for the 2010 to 2011 period. Lawrence also ranked No. 34 in high-tech GDP growth for the period of 2007 to 2012. There wasn't any one big new company that has caused that spike, but it is worth noting that most of the jobs that have been created out at the incubator facility on KU's West Campus probably fall into that high-tech GDP category.
It also is worth noting what community took the top spot in this year's report. (It certainly isn't anything to put on a banner.) Columbia, Mo., was ranked as the No. 1 small performing metro in the country, up from No. 10 in the 2012 report.
Other regional cities of note included:
— Iowa City: No. 15
— Waco, Texas: No. 22
— Joplin, Mo.: No. 61
— Ames, Iowa: No. 71
— Topeka: No. 121 (up from 144 last year)
The report also ranks the top performing large metro areas. Austin, Texas, ranked No. 1. The Kansas City metro area ranked No. 68, up from No. 104 last year. Wichita ranked No. 183, down from No. 146 a year ago. The report ranked 200 large metro areas.
People can make whatever they want of the rankings. The Milken name — remember Michael Milken and junk bonds in the 1980s — sometimes raises eyebrows, but this Milken report is generally well-respected. Regardless, Lawrence's near-bottom ranking last year had a lot of locals talking, so I wanted to pass along this year's numbers.
In other news and notes from around town:
• I'll tell you what else has people talking these days: the late surge in opposition to the city's proposed rental licensing and inspection program. As we reported last week, the city received about 40 letters of opposition, mainly from tenants, who were concerned about the program possibly violating their privacy.
Now, it appears landlords have been doing their fair share of letter writing as well, sending out letters to their tenants that paint a scary — and city officials say inaccurate — picture of what city inspectors will do once in a tenant's home.
An official at the large northwest Lawrence apartment complex Hutton Farms confirmed leaders there sent out an email to all its residents last week. It included the following paragraph:
"If approved, a city inspector, trained by a former police officer, will enter your apartment and document and photograph their findings. This documentation will include not only code issues but your personal information and photographs of your personal items."
City officials have taken exception to that language. When I shared the letter with city officials, Scott McCullough, the city's director of planning and neighborhood resources, crafted a response to make it clear that any photographs that would be taken as part of a rental unit inspection, won't include photos of personal items. Instead,the photos are close-up shots of code violations — anything from mold on a wall to an improperly wired outlet. Plus, city officials said the tenant or the property owner is always welcome to accompany inspectors, and monitor what photos are being taken.
The letter really has created hard feelings with some supporters of the proposed rental inspection program.
"I would characterize it as a scare tactic that is most unfortunate," said Candice Davis, an Oread neighborhood leader who has been a longtime supporter of a rental inspection program in the city. "I think they are playing dirty politics. It was an extreme distortion of the truth."
She noted the city has run an inspection program for rental properties that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods for about 11 years. The issue of inspectors taking improper photographs of personal items has not seemed to create many concerns as part of that program.
I've got a message into an executive with Hutton Farms' management group for further comment on the letter.
What isn't known is how widely the letter may have been distributed to tenants around town. The Hutton Farms employee — she declined to give her full name — said Hutton Farms' sister complex, Tuckaway Apartments, sent out a similar letter. Plus, the employee said there were some indications the letter had been distributed at other apartment complexes around town.
Davis said she's confident fear mongering by landlords has been the main reason there has been a surge in opposition from tenants. It is worth noting that while many complaints have come from tenants recently, the Kansas chapter of the ACLU also has expressed concerns about some parts of the program.
Regardless, city commissioners still have a decision to make on the proposed program. Commissioners delayed action on the program last week, while staff members gather more information. The program is set to come before the commission again at its Dec. 17 meeting.
More LJWorld City Coverage
Southern fried chicken restaurant coming to West Lawrence; an overview of city’s proposed rental licensing program
It is time for me to restock the supply of wet wipes in the F-150's glove box. A new fried chicken place — with a drive-thru — is coming to west Lawrence.
The spot inside the Miller Mart gas station at 3300 W. Sixth St. is ready for its latest culinary adventure: D-Lux Southern Fried Chicken. Over the years, the gas station spot has served as the launching pad for several notable Lawrence restaurants. The Basil Leaf Cafe, Tortas Jalisco and Biemer's BBQ are the better-known of the group.
Well, a trained chef who has traveled the country is betting that fried chicken will be the next culinary trend to take hold in the spot. Robert Douglas has worked as a chef and culinary executive in several resorts and casinos in the western U.S. But he's originally from Georgia and South Carolina, which are better known as Fried Chicken Country.
Douglas plans to open D-Lux Southern Fried Chicken next week, and when he does, he'll be touting a unique 48-hour fried chicken process. (I'm familiar with it. It usually takes me 48 hours to eat enough fried chicken to satisfy my appetite.) Actually, I'm told that is not the process he's talking about. Instead, he's talking about a process taught to him by his grandmother where the chicken sits in a brine for at least 24 hours.
"The big difference between this chicken and other chicken is that we take the time to brine it," Douglas said. "That is how you make sure it gets seasoned all the way to the bone."
The chicken also uses a wet batter of hydrated peppers, garlic and other spices, Douglas said.
In addition to the chicken, Douglas said D-Lux will be making its own side dishes, which include mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, braised greens, pickled beets, applesauce, and even homemade pickles, spicy mushrooms and spicy pimento cheese. By the way, there also will be homemade hot sauce. (If you are driving by the F-150 and see me sucking on a wet wipe, you'll know what's up.)
Although the whole process from start to finish takes 48 hours, Douglas and his business partner, Lawrence's David Bennett, are designing the restaurant to be quick-service oriented. (Just to clarify, there are a couple of Lawrence businessmen by the name of David Bennett. This is the one that also is an executive with Blue Sky Satellite in Lawrence.) Chicken will be made in batches so that it can be served without a long wait. That also will allow for the restaurant to have a drive-thru.
"You will be able to get a six pack of beer and a whole fried chicken to go," Douglas told me.
I haven't yet seen a menu for the restaurant, but Douglas said he's planning for an average meal to cost between $6 and $10. Douglas hopes to be open next week, and he plans for hours to be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday.
In other news and notes from around town:
• We had an article this weekend about the city's proposed rental regulations and some privacy concerns that are being raised related to the program's inspection process. As I was researching that article, several items came up, and not all of them made them into the article. One was a story about how the city of Manhattan, which had a rental inspection program and then repealed it, sent four student renters to jail for violations related to its rental ordinance. I wasn't able to interview Manhattan officials about that case (it didn't come to my attention until pretty late in the reporting process), but I did find a 2011 news article about it. I thought I would pass it along because some opponents of the Lawrence proposal are citing the case as an example of government overreach when it comes to these types of programs. You can make of it what you will. The article comes from Manhattan's weekly newspaper, which was one of the staunchest opponents to the city's rental registration ordinance.
• Lawrence's proposed rental registration program has been quite the talk recently because commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider giving final approval to the program. A big part of the discussion likely will be what inspectors are instructed to look for as part of the inspections of rental units. The city has been tweaking the list of proposed violations for more than a month. They have created a list of major and minor violations, but, as it is proposed now, a unit can have an unlimited number of minor violations and still be eligible to receive an incentive from the city, as long as the minor violations are fixed within a reasonable period of time. (City staff is proposing 30 days for most violations.) The incentive is that the property owner won't have to go through a city inspection for six years. Properties that don't receive the incentive are subject to inspection every three years. Click here to see the complete list of minor violations, as proposed by city staff. Here's a sampling:
— Inoperable bathroom ventilation fan;
— Clogged drains;
— Dirty furnace filter
— Improperly fitting interior or exterior doors;
— Extension cords used for permanent power source;
— Grass or weeds in violation of the city's weed ordinance;
— Lack of deadbolt lock on exterior doors;
— Missing covers on light switches or electrical outlets;
— Smoke detectors inoperable;
— Upholstered furniture on a deck or porch.
The city staff also is recommending a list of major violations. If a property has one or more major violations, it would not be eligible for the incentive program. Click here to see a complete list of the major violations, as proposed. Here's a sampling:
— Backed up or collapsed sewer line;
— Ceiling height requirements not met;
— Dryer, furnace or hot water heater not properly vented;
— Egress requirements not met for bedrooms;
— Large amounts of mold or other fungus;
— Smoke detectors not present on each floor and in each sleeping room;
— Badly leaking roofs;
— Structural deficiencies with the building's roof, foundation, stairs or other components;
— Lack of a heating system that can keep the property at a 68 degree temperature;
— Exposed or frayed electrical wiring.
• For those of you who want more details, here's a pretty good city memo that outlines how the program is proposed to work. It also provides details on how the city's current system of rental inspections work. That system — except for rentals in single-family zoned neighborhoods — requires a tenant to call and ask for an inspection. The city conducted 34 of those inspections in 2012. Nineteen of them were related to a North Lawrence trailer park that had badly deteriorated. The memo provides details on the other 15 inspections, and some of the violations inspectors found. They ranged from a broken staircase bannister to large amounts of mold, inoperable toilets, and leaking roofs.
More LJWorld City Coverage
As my trucker buddies and NASCAR friends say, those fellows down at Lawrence City Hall have the “pedal to the metal” these days.
Every City Commission is different in how it goes about its business as the April City Commission elections approach. Some go into a mode where they tackle very few significant issues in the final weeks. Others take the approach that they want to get as much done as possible so the next commission can have a clean slate.
This commission run by Mayor Bob Schumm falls into the latter category. He’s pressing hard to get several issues decided — think the $25 million recreation center, a possible $55 million decision on a new sewer plant and now a major expansion of the city’s rental licensing program.
Commissioners are being asked to approve a new rental licensing and registration ordinance at their Tuesday evening meeting. I’ll bring you a more detailed report, probably on Monday, but until then mark your calendars and here’s a glimpse at the proposal:
• As previously reported, the program would require registration and inspection of all rental properties in the city. Currently, the city’s program only covers rental properties that are in single-family zoned neighborhoods. That means large areas of town — like the Oread neighborhood — don’t have rental inspections, even though they house large numbers of renters.
• Rental units would be inspected once every three years. The city, however, is proposing a system where larger complexes wouldn’t be required to have every unit inspected, but rather a sampling of units could be inspected. For apartment complexes that have 51 units or more, 26 units or 33 percent — whichever is greater — would be inspected once every three years. Apartment complexes with 11 to 50 units would have 11 units or 50 percent — whichever is greater — inspected every three years.
• The inspections would check for several items related to the city’s health and safety code. Importantly, though, the inspection could also be used to issue a citation related to the city’s occupancy code. No more than four unrelated people are supposed to live in an apartment in the city, or no more than three unrelated people in single-family zoned rentals. The code also covers a range of other issues: BBQ grills on decks; leaky roofs; wobbly hand rails; improper egress; and dirty furnace filters, among other things.
• Every apartment in the city would pay a $15 annual license fee. Apartments also would pay a $50 inspection fee in the year that they are due for an inspection. The city is offering a partial rebate on that fee: If a complex averages fewer than five minor violations per unit, the facility would pay a $25 inspection fee the next time it is scheduled to be inspected.
• The city previously has estimated it will cost about $370,000 to expand the rental licensing and inspection program. The proposed fees are designed to allow the program to break even. The city anticipates it will need to hire five new code enforcement officers and two new administrative assistants to staff the program.
• The rental licensing process requires landlords who live more than 40 miles from the city to appoint a resident agent who can be contacted about problems at the landlord’s Lawrence apartments.
• If approved, the city would start hiring new staff members in the second and third quarters of this year, and would start the expanded inspection program in the fourth quarter.
The commission already has expressed some preliminary support for the program. But it will be worth watching because the idea has brought some strong responses from the landlord community. And while this City Commission is working to get this project finalized before the elections, it also is worth remembering that anything can be changed by the new commission to be elected in April. Ask Manhattan about that. Manhattan implemented an expanded rental inspection program, only to see it be discontinued after a new group of commissioners took office.
Lawrence city commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.