After briefly reviewing the town's rental dwelling code during Tuesday's Perryville work session, one commissioner questioned whether the code is entirely necessary.
The code, better known as the landlord-tenant ordinance that went into effect Nov. 1, 2009, holds owners of rental units responsible for their tenants, as well as the rental properties.
When the ordinance was adopted, the town board agreed to periodically review the code for effectiveness. This was the board's first review of the code.
Mayor Jim Eberhardt commented to the board that in the two years since the code went into effect there had never been an appeal before the board from a resident. Town planner Mary Ann Skilling clarified that there had been two hearings, but nothing was ever brought up before the board.
The town has 527 registered rental units, Skilling noted, while there were 718 in 2010.
Commissioner Alan Fox mentioned that Montgomery County has a handbook for a similar code that could potentially give Perryville ideas on how to improve on the ordinance.
Commissioner Michael Dawson wanted to hear Skilling's opinion on the code, adding, "I think we should get rid of the ordinance altogether."
Dawson went on to ask what the purpose of the code is if there's never been a complaint to landlords. Commissioner Michelle Linkey later said there have been complaints, but none were appealed.
"It looks like just a money rip to me," he said.
Skilling explained that some of the rental units are "not what we [Perryville] consider up to standard," and the town needs to add definitions to the code, clarify the terms of penalty fees and have inspectors look at new units. Knowing the town is keeping an eye on landlords, she said, "does make a big difference" as to how the units and tenants are treated.
Dawson said he felt like issues between a landlord and tenant were of a civil matter and the town was "just creating another level of government" for the problems to be worked through.
"It seems like we're duplicating this," he said of the steps that need to be made to make and resolve a complaint.
'Quiet zone' request
A resident who has lived on Frenchtown Road for more than 20 years requested that the town look into what it would take to designate a railroad crossing near her home to be a "quiet zone," or an area where the train wouldn't be allowed to blow its whistle, Cathy McCardell, Perryville's administrative supervisor, told the commissioners. McCardell added that Port Deposit isn't "giving out" quiet zones anymore because of accidents that occurred in those areas because the train did not signal.
Eberhardt asked what the signaling requirements are for a train, or if there is a minimum number of times the train has to blow its whistle before a crossing, and McCardell said it depends on each crossing.
To create the quiet zone, she went on, would be "very costly," with a price of up to $500,000. Because of the high cost, Eberhardt said the first step the town should take is be to contact the train company, Norfolk Southern, to see what the signaling requirements are and to find out if they have a "horn happy engineer" blowing the whistle an unnecessary number of times or if the train is meeting the required standards.
"Has something changed with Norfolk Southern requirements?" Eberhardt asked, referring to the resident living on Frenchtown Road for more than two decades who only recently made the request. McCardell said she would look into the matter.
Parade and Autumn Fest
The town's annual Autumn Fest and parade, which was on Oct. 8 this year, didn't receive the number of volunteers it normally does to put together the events, and didn't receive enough donations to cover the costs of both.
McCardell, who helped with the festival and parade, said the night before the events, she and four other people, including from the Greater Perryville Chamber of Commerce, were the only ones to set up, while the day of the event there were eight total volunteers, which "is not enough to run both events." While the events still went on and Autumn Fest food vendors were happy with the turnout, McCardell said there were issues with both.