Mt. Lebanon revises plan to inspect rental properties

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Mt. Lebanon is revisiting its proposed rental property inspection ordinance.

In the wake of criticism leveled by landlords at the ordinance during a Feb. 25 public hearing, municipal solicitor Philip Weis worked on restructuring the document to address some of the concerns.

The new version calls for inspections of apartments and similar units every three years. The municipality would be divided into three districts to develop a yearly rotation.

A stipulation to inspect units between changes in occupancy has been eliminated.

Also, the fee schedule calls for reduced rates if multiple units in the same complex can be scheduled for inspection on the same day. The first inspection would be $65, and the others, $15 apiece.

Because the updated version of the ordinance is "materially different" than the first draft, Mr. Weis told commissioners Monday that another public hearing is required.

Joe Berkley, Mt. Lebanon's chief inspector-zoning officer, said he is comfortable with the changes to the ordinance.

"It still addresses our officers' main concerns about safety," he said, acknowledging that his department is prepared to handle the inspections on a three-year cycle. "We were prepared to do it more frequently."

Fire Chief Nicholas Sohyda said he agrees with the new version, too.

The ordinance will allow corrections to be made if a unit does not pass a first inspection. The initial fee includes one "reinspection," and subsequent inspections are $25 until compliance is reached.

Cal Lynch of Academy Avenue, who said he is a 50-year resident of the municipality and has been a renter the past five years, told commissioners he opposes the ordinance.

"The inspection thing is bothersome to me because it's all going to get passed on to the renter," he said.

In other business Monday:

• Municipal manager Stephen Feller said he has talked with school district officials about the Fourth of July fireworks display.

"It's our feeling we can safely do this," he said, "at some location near Mt. Lebanon Park."

Spectators would be able to sit in the bleachers of the nearby stadium at Mt. Lebanon High School, which is undergoing a large-scale renovation project.

"There are clearly all kinds of issues with parking that need to be dealt with," Mr. Feller said. "We feel this is the best location to have it."

The display last summer was at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. Karen Wolowski of Hazel Drive told commissioners that she and other residents she has talked with prefer that location, which is close to the Washington Road business district, as opposed to the park.

"That was the first time the fireworks were truly a community event," she said.

• Commissioners approved an ordinance that deletes wording from the municipal code essentially allowing skateboards and similar devices on public streets.

An earlier version of the ordinance would have allowed motorized scooters, such as Razor brand devices, on sidewalks. Commissioners, though, decided to retain the wording in the ordinance prohibiting their use, at the recommendation of police Chief Coleman McDonough.

• A new municipal telephone system gained approval, at a cost of $91,213. The 2013 capital budget allotted $90,000 for the purchase.

The current system, which is 10 years old, has experienced some failures, but the applicable warranties and maintenance agreements have expired.

Replacing the system's processor, infrastructure and 50 of the 240 telephones now in use will take place this year. The remainder of the phones will be replaced in 2014.


Henry Funk, freelance writer:


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