City’s consensus of ignorance

To the editor:

On March 14, an injustice took place at the Houghton city rental board meeting, a consequence of fear, ignorance, and stupidity. 

There are many reasons for seeking an R1 rental license in an R1 zone. A couple on retirement may decide to move south, but may want to save their home for their children who may not be ready to move at the time of their parent’s retirements.  A family moving to another town for a job may not be able to sell the house before moving. A faculty member may need to spend few years at a national laboratory or a federal agency and cannot afford to leave their house empty. Young families may not have funds to buy a house but would like to live in a family neighborhood. Graduate students with families may want to live in family neighborhoods but are at MTU for a short period of time. Have we become so fearful of rentals that we want to prohibit all of the above?

The city ordinance 14-148 gives rental board only three options: approve the rental license, give conditional approval to meet the code requirements, deny the application for a specific problem with the property or property owner that borders criminality and is brought to the notice of the rental board at an open meeting. R1 rental license in an R1 zone cannot and should not be denied if it meets the city code.  The rental board does not have the authority of violating rights of property owners by choosing an option not in the ordinance. On March 14, a crowd fearful of rentals because of city’s past history of enforcement panicked the rental board into taking action not in the ordinance 14-148.

Laura Konkel, formerly Laura Merz, who grew up in our neighborhood wanted to buy our property and rent it for a few years to families before she could move in.  Being a lawyer, she was meticulous with her application. The code inspector had given conditional approval and bank had approved her loan. The rental board in choosing an action outside the ordinance violated our rights and messed up our deal. We absorbed significant financial loss but someone else may take the city to court in the future. I gave my recommendations to the city manager to prevent future misuse of authority vested in the rental board that I hope will be implemented. 

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