Thursday, September 20, 2018

Advocate earns first-place awards in Better Newspaper Contest


As part of the annual convention, the results of Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest were announced on Saturday, September 15. The Jackson County Advocate brought home some awards. We received:
First Place - Best Sports Photograph - Brent Kalwei
First Place - Best Sports Feature Story - Brent Kalwei
First Place - Best Feature Story - Mary Wilson
Third Place - Best Government Coverage - Mary Wilson
Third Place - Best Story About History - Mary Wilson
Honorable Mention - Best Business Story - Mary Wilson
Wilson and Kalwei are pictured above receiving their awards with Missouri Press Association’s Second Vice President Trevor Vernon.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Aldermen to consider updating registration of rental properties ordinance

by Mary Wilson

Dozens of property owners turned out for a public hearing on rental homes at last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting in Grandview.

An ordinance proposing amendments to the Grandview Code of Laws that deal specifically with certain provisions of residential rental properties will be voted on by the Board of Aldermen at an upcoming meeting, but not before a handful of landlords put in their two-cents worth regarding registration and inspection of rental properties in the city.

The City of Grandview, in 2009, established a registration ordinance for rental properties, providing the city with detailed ownership and point-of-contact information for these properties regarding issues such as exterior maintenance, building codes, nuisance abatements and general property management. Due to a number of factors, most notably the economic conditions and staffing restrictions, the City of Grandview did not actively enforce the rental registration ordinance. In 2017, the Board of Aldermen asked for a review of that ordinance and for staff to come up with ways to enforce the provisions already on the books. As a result, staff is proposing amendments to the current rental property registration ordinance.

“Most of the changes are definitions, like adding a definition for the city, updating the definition for ‘owner’ to match the definition in the building code, adding a definition for non-owner occupied, clarifying the registration period for the first year, and updating the fee schedule,” said Billie Hufford, City of Grandview Building Inspector and Planner. “It’s a tiered pricing scale of $8-12, depending on how many units an individual has.”

One resident spoke during public comments on the hearing on behalf of support for the registration of rental properties. She stated that near the home she owns, she has seen five other homes become rentals and is concerned that they may be owned by absentee landlords.

“I am pleased to see that the board is considering a registration of rental properties,” said Grandview resident Ann Heinzler. “We are a community of homeowners and tenants, and I would like to be sure that people who are tenants and those landlords who own the properties are all treated in a fair and equitable manner. The first step is to register what properties are rentals.”

Several property owners spoke out against the ordinance, however most seemed concerned with upcoming inspections of their properties. At this time, the Board of Aldermen will only be voting on the registration of rental properties, with discussions on inspections to come at a later date. According to Mayor Leonard Jones, at that time, another public hearing will take place for input regarding that process.

After the latest string of gun violence in the City of Grandview, Holiday Inn Express has suffered financial loss due to issues in the high rental neighborhood directly behind where the hotel sits.

“There’s been shootouts over there at the rental properties behind us, at Greenfield,” said Jovana Johnson, a representative from Holiday Inn Express hotel in Grandview. “We have had several bust-ins from our cars. We lost major accounts, thousands of dollars lost because it wasn’t safe. One bullet went into one of our guest rooms, ricocheted inside the room and hit inside the mattress where the guest’s head was. They didn’t know, our housekeeper found it the next day. I’ve been at that property for six years, and there’s always been an issue.”

Johnson said that due to the violence stemming from Greenfield Village, her employees don’t feel safe coming to work. Her concern with the ordinance is that the city ensures landlords are doing proper background screenings of their potential tenants. She added that the ordinance seemed to have some racial undertones to it.

“I’ve heard comments from CEOs, not necessarily mine, but that it’s Section 8 people that’s the issue. If it’s put out, there needs to be a way that there’s no segregation, that it’s fair,” said Johnson. “I see both sides, I see the businesses that are there, because I’m losing money, and then I see my friends over there who, some of them, might not even make the cut if the registration is too hard.”

Of the landlords who spoke against the proposed ordinance, only one stated that they personally lived in the City of Grandview. Their concerns ranged from potential financial burden due to additional fees and potentially raising rents to cover them, tenants who don’t take care of the homes they rent, and what the potential inspection process will look like if and when it is implemented.