Dover City Council on Monday night gave unanimous approval to a law that allows the city to evict renters who have engaged in various types of criminal activity. The law also makes the renter responsible for people living with him or her, even if the renter was not involved in the criminal behavior.
The law applies to any felony, class A misdemeanor and a number of other misdemeanors to include certain drug offenses as well as offensive touching, sexual harassment, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, prostitution and more.
Tenants, members of the tenant's household, guests or other persons under the tenant's control would violate the law if they took part in the criminal activity within 500 feet of the home or apartment. A total of three such instances within a 12-month period would require the police department to notify the city's planning and inspections department to begin eviction proceedings.
The law does not require conviction on any of the above charges, only that the individual "engage" in the illegal activity.
The law also requires the city police department to conduct semi-annual Safe Communities seminars for landlords and for landlords to attend the seminars. Acknowledgement of the law and its prohibitions will be required as an addendum to any rental contract or lease.
The first such seminar is scheduled for Saturday, April 13.
The original proposal was subject to several revisions brought on by public concerns.
"I probably have not had as many issues since I've been on council that's garnered more emails and phone calls," Third District Councilman David Bonar acknowledged.
David Anderson, councilman from the Fourth District, credited city residents for the final product.
"This has come from the streets," he said. "It's been a long haul, but one that's very necessary. It's one part of reclaiming the neighborhoods."
Council President Thomas Leary noted, "I think we will get some good results with this."
Queen Street home declared dangerous
Council also held a public hearing on a proposal to declare a home at 231 N. Queen St. a dangerous building and to require the building be renovated or demolished by May 8.
Director of Planning and Inspections Ann Marie Townshend gave a PowerPoint presentation showing the deterioration of the home, stating it is in violation of numerous building codes.
The owner of the building, Vivian E. Harris, died in March 2012, and the property has been under control of her estate since then.
Through their attorney, the executors of Harris' estate acknowledged they do not have the money to repair the dilapidated structure, Townshend said.
"There is just no way to describe it," Townshend said as council members looked at photos of a trash-strewn interior, punctuated by rotting walls and ceilings in danger of collapse.
Page 2 of 3 - If the estate is unable to pay for pulling down the home, the city will finance the demolition and place a lien for the work against the future sale of the property.
Representatives for the estate have until May 8 to either repair or demolish the house.
In other actions, council:
- passed on to the city planning commission a proposal to begin the next phase of work on additional apartments for Luther Village III. The proposal came before council in 2002 and 100 of the planned 524 apartments already have been built. The project was stopped for several years due to the poor economy.
- approved the expenditure of $50,000 in attorney fees for upcoming contract negotiations between the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) labor union. The fee may be less if negotiations take less than the projected five months time.
- approved the expenditure of $15,000 in attorney fees for contract negotiations with Local 1238, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. This contract covers 35 city workers and like negotiations for the AFSCME contract, attorney fees are billed to the city at $165 an hour.
A tribute and a farewell
Things got emotional at both the beginning and end of the meeting as council members paid tribute to a fallen city worker and bade a temporary farewell to one of their own.
City Manager Scott Koenig opened the session with a tribute to public works inspector Robert W. See Jr., who died in a car crash following an apparent medical incident April 6.
His voice occasionally cracking with emotion, Koenig called See an "energetic, hard-working and down to earth" person who could be "relied upon to put his all into his job." A single parent of two boys, See was "a wonderful and devoted father," Koenig said
"Bob See's presence will be missed by the employees of the city of Dover," he added.
Council members also gave best wishes to Anderson, who is a specialist and chaplain's assistant with the Delaware Army National Guard. Anderson's unit is deploying for a one-year tour in Afghanistan. Each council member pledged to assist fellow Fourth District Councilman Wallace P. Dixon with any issues in the district during Anderson's absence.
Bonar noted this is perhaps the first time in Dover's history that a sitting council member has been called to military duty overseas.
However, Bonar added, "I think that working in the chaplain's office will put you in pretty good stead for returning safely."
Second District Councilman William Hare, a veteran of the Vietnam War, had some additional advice being in a combat zone.
"Don't ever think it's easy, and never take it for granted," he said. "Protect yourself and those people around you and come back safe."
Page 3 of 3 - The next meeting of the Dover City Council will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.