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City housing committee meets for first time

WORTHINGTON -- A committee formed to consider ways of revising the City of Worthington's proposed housing standards ordinance met Wednesday night for the first time.

Mayor Alan Oberloh explained Thursday that the meeting entailed an overview of housing issues in Worthington, essentially laying ground for future discussions on how to revamp an ordinance draft that proved to be controversial when a special public forum took place Dec. 7 on the matter.

"We showed photos of some homes. ... We discussed the independent housing study that indicated a neighborhood where 40 percent of homes are in need of repairs to meet standards, and that's how we arrived at doing this new ordinance for housing," Oberloh said.

Oberloh said the committee began addressing how any new ordinance should consider owner-occupied and rental properties in different ways, stating there are "things unique to each one." He also said members of the volunteer group -- the Housing Standards Committee -- were told that any ordinance won't be radically different from those already approved in other communities.

"We will follow what the state calls minimum standards," Oberloh said. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel."

Members of the Worthington City Council were asked following the December forum to recruit two members each to serve on the committee. Members include Jon Benson, Marion Cashel, Gary Boltjes, Ginger Reeves, Lon Standafer, Clair VanGrouw, Bill Wetering, Gordon Moore, Vern Leistico and Doug Obermoller. City Aldermen Lee Hain and Mike Woll are also serving on the committee, as are city employees Brad Chapulis, Jim Laffrenzen and Myra Onnen. Oberloh is the facilitator.

Benson said he feels one primary goal of the proposed ordinance is that it will not be seen as "a hindrance ... but a help. We want to support the landlords who are trying to do decent jobs in the community." He noted that the photo presentation given at Wednesday's meeting makes it clear housing standards revisions need to be addressed.

"The meeting demonstrated that there are a number of pretty substandard rental units in the City of Worthington," he said.

There are many cases in which a home's basement or attic -- with substandard, unsafe conditions -- is rented or subleased by that residence's occupant to another person or group of persons, Benson added.

"We saw some examples of electrical wiring that was totally inadequate," he said. "There's a tremendous health hazard with that sort of thing."

Oberloh indicated that committee member Reeves offered to have one of her properties inspected as a trial, of sorts, for the ordinance. The committee would meet at that property and complete a minimum standards checklist, the mayor said.

While a goal of completing review of the ordinance by April has been set, there is no strict deadline.

"There was a decision that we would not rush the process to meet that date," Oberloh said.

The committee is next scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at City Hall.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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