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Council considering overhaul of Borough of Newport tenancy ordinance

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Big changes could be coming to Newport.

Borough council spent much of its Oct. 4 meeting debating the merits of several potential ordinances changes.

None were more important than a proposed Tenancy Ordinance, which if implemented would revise the requirements for Newport landlords. The majority of residential units in the borough are rentals, and a good number of owners live out of state.

Some provisions discussed at the meeting include a permit requirement and periodic inspections of rental units.

Attorney Mary Dissinger said she should research whether the borough could deny someone the ability to rent their property. Councilman Jacob Zentichko countered that the ordinance was largely copied from a sample ordinance provided by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and similar to ordinances in other communities. He also noted that the council was in the very early stages of the process of passing the ordinance.

Councilor Tami Halstead also expressed concern about the scope of the proposed order, particularly the ‘disruptive conduct clause’, which she said would be more in the realm of policing than code enforcement. . She also questioned a forecast defining permitted guests, which she said could exceed the borough’s planned scope and whether written agreements between landlords and tenants were required under Pennsylvania law.

Council President Penny Frownfelter wanted to clarify that the borough has a lot of good landlords and that a small minority (perhaps 10%) is the problem. She added that the borough’s intentions were not to punish landlords who do the right thing. It was noted that some of the problematic landlords owned a large number of dwellings.

Dissinger pointed out that if the enacted ordinance were too onerous, it could potentially drive a substantial proportion of owners out of the business with negative consequences. A glut of properties could all hit the market simultaneously or many properties could be abandoned.

Zentichko also provided an update on his review of the Borough’s Vehicle and Traffic Ordinance. Some recommended changes include simplifying the process for obtaining disabled parking permits. He suggested removing the requirement for residents to show doctor’s reports and defer to the state on the matter (automatic approval for those who have already received a handicap sign). It also planned to remove some archaic provisions, such as the one relating to the closing of streets to allow children’s sledding.

The borough also debated whether to include its snow emergency plan in the highway code or make it a standalone ordinance.

An alternate layout—reversing the one-way direction of Locust Street near the high school—was also discussed. The Newport School District requested the change in order to direct traffic on the street away from the school. Council intends to notify neighboring owners of the planned change before any action is taken.

Resident Charles Kipp addressed council regarding the condition of Pine Street on the south end of Mulberry Street. Kipp says he has lived in the borough for 20 years and has never complained about anything, but the street section is very bad. He wonders why the borough did not re-pave the section when it did the rest of the street.

Councilor Christian Fickes explained that the section was an oversight and accidentally omitted from the application package. He said this would be a high priority for the next paving season and he would see if a temporary measure to improve the situation could be taken.

Halstead reported that Newport received a $520,000 grant to replace curbs and sidewalks on North Fourth Street. The grant requires a 20% match. It was under consideration if APRA funds or another grant and loan could be used to account for the counterpart.

Another $105,000 grant was approved for stormwater repairs on Market Street.

Fickes said the borough is continuing its work to ensure proper stormwater drainage throughout the city. Specifically, work was underway on the coves at Caroline and Gantt streets.

Halstead responded to a letter from Mayor Rob Campbell, who was not present at the meeting, explaining why the park restrooms were closed. Halstead said there were several incidents, including someone setting fire to a roll of toilet paper in one of the stalls. She said that with the end of the season looming, the decision was made to close the establishment.

Finally, Newport received a second round of ARPA funding in the amount of $83,422. He also received his annual State Pension Assistance ($10,729) and Fire Relief ($6,912) funds.