Council delays nuisance proposal
In Charleston's latest town-and-gown dispute, a plan to hold landlords criminally liable for tenants' nuisance behavior was trimmed back repeatedly and then postponed, at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
Also at the meeting, council approved plans to make downtown DASH bus service free and more frequent, and heard Bridgeview Village residents' complaints about the Police Department shutting off the main road to the public housing project to reduce crime.
The proposed landlord ordinance was urged by the downtown homeowners near the College of Charleston, who believe absentee landlords turn a blind eye to street-side piles of trash, late-night noise and other annoyances caused by renters.
Downtown resident Eben Smith presented a five-page petition supporting the ordinance, and his wife, Kathy, said "the amount of college students has really reached a critical mass."
Lobbying over the ordinance continued into the evening, and at one point S.C. Apartment Association President Victoria Cowart discussed last-minute revisions with Councilman Mike Seekings at his desk during the council meeting.
"The problem here is, we have confused landlording with parenting," Cowart said in public comments to the council. "We're greatly concerned that we could be held criminally liable for the actions of adults not under our control."
Originally, the proposed ordinance would have exposed landlords to a misdemeanor if tenants created a nuisance.
A revised version prior to Tuesday's meeting said penalties would follow three notices of a public nuisance. Two more versions followed, and the last exempting landlords living at the same property as the apartment, and any apartments where a professional property management company like Cowart's is employed.
Some council members were frustrated by the late revisions, and had the issue deferred.
In other business:
--The council signed off on a plan to use money from tourism-related taxes and the State Ports Authority to make downtown DASH buses free. CARTA would get about $40,000 more than it now collects from fares on the downtown loop routes, and riders would pay nothing.
--Residents of Bridgeview Village, a public housing project troubled by violent crime, complained that a Police Department decision to block off the main road into the complex has caused problems with school bus transportation and other issues. Police officials said there have been no armed robberies, aggravated assaults or homicides at Bridgeview since the road was blocked.