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$500 fee for rental properties in Goshen tabled

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By Laura Hagan

Members of the Goshen City Commission voted Monday night to table a vote on an ordinance that would impose a $500 license fee on any person or business renting property in the city. A few Goshen residents attended Monday night’s meeting, where the second reading and public hearing of the ordinance took place. In addition to the $500 annual fee, under the ordinance, renters would need to obtain a one-time $50 license from the Goshen City Clerk before renting the property. Jim Burke, the former mayor of the city of Orchard Grass Hills, is now a Goshen resident who rents a house on Rollingwood Lane. He’s lived there almost a year. He brought his attorney and both spoke at the hearing.  Burke said the ordinance is a bad idea.  “I plan to live here for seven years,” he said, “so I’ll have to pay you $3,500.” He said he takes care of his home just as well as anyone else on his street. In fact, he said, when he moved in, the home had been foreclosed and in poor condition. Since he lived there, he said, he’s turned it around.  His attorney, Larry Abrams, said the ordinance – if passed – would be in conflict with subdivision regulations and “highly discriminatory.” “You (would) single out renting houses and be ignoring all the other home businesses operated in the same subdivision,” Abrams said. “For some reason the council has chosen to single out people renting homes and no one else.” “It’s going to be fought if it passes here,” Burke said. Abrams said it is discriminatory as far as fair and equal housing access is concerned and by imposing the tax – which he said will find its way into the cost of renting the home – it will be seen as attempt to keep renters out of the area. “(It would say) we don’t want your kind here,” he said, “just people that can own a house.” Christine Hill is a landlord in the area. She said she is against the ordinance because the cost would be passed on to renters. She said there are houses for rent now and people who have been foreclosed on and want to stay in the county could rent, but may not be able to afford the extra $550 a year.  “It’s sad in these economic times, people having hard times will be passed on this tax,” she said. “It will hurt people that want to live in a nice house in a nice town.” Mayor Todd Hall, though unable to attend Monday’s meeting, issued a statement. He said the idea behind the ordinance is “in no way punitive or meant to be a deterrent to renting.”  He said the city is seeking new income to offset losses this year and in the future and the city’s need to repave roads – which hasn’t happened since 1997 – has become a factor as well. Hall said in his statement the proposed amount may be too much and suggested the fee be closer to $100 or $200. Commissioners may look at another way to balance the budget, he said. Commissioner Michael Reeves said Abrams and Burke raised issues the commission hadn’t considered and suggested tabling the vote to review with the city attorney. Commissioner Terry Crotteau said that the commission thought they’d acted legally and done their research.  “You’ve opened my eyes,” he said. Commissioner Jeff Mangan said the residents brought up good points – most importantly, the fact that they’d be taxing a business in the city though the city doesn’t allow residents to have home businesses. Commissioner Bob Thacker said instead of pushing fees on the homeowners, perhaps the commission should look at being stricter on enforcing other ordinances. The motion to table the ordinance passed unanimously. Commissioners didn’t set a date to furthur discuss the issue. There are 316 homes in the city of Goshen. Of those, 10 percent – 30 homes – are rentals that would be affected by this ordinance if it passed, City Clerk Joyce Morphew said.   E-mail us about this story at: lhagan@oldhamera.com