Friday, July 28, 2006

Council - Courier - Repeals ordinance to limit overcrowding

Courier News Online - Friday, May 5, 2006

"Plainfield repeals ordinance to limit overcrowding"

Staff Writer

PLAINFIELD -- An ordinance passed to try to limit overcrowding in apartment units was summarily repealed by the City Council after officials said there are other existing rules that accomplish the same purpose.

The vote was a unanimous 5-0 -- but several council members issued warnings before they agreed to take the unusual step of rescinding the 11¼2-year-old measure at Wednesday night's regular meeting.

The administration of Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs and city code-enforcement officials must make sure existing housing codes are applied fairly and equitably, Councilwoman Linda Carter said.

"It (the administration) will definitely be held to task to make sure we are doing the right thing," she said.

The council's vote formally repealed the so-called "safe homes" initiative, which was adopted in November 2004.

The ordinance caused a small controversy because, when it was discussed initially, it called for apartment owners to provide the city with the names, ages and genders of all tenants. It also was once known as the "anti-overcrowding" ordinance, which some residents saw as discriminatory.

A few people accused the city of targeting the Hispanic population.

By the time the ordinance was adopted, the requirement for a listing of tenants' names had been dropped, and it applied exclusively to one- or two-unit residences -- essentially subdivided homes -- that are not occupied by the owner.

Under its terms, owners of such buildings were obligated to register the apartments annually with a $75 fee.

The registrations also required the name and address of the owner, managing agent and superintendent; the number of sleeping rooms in each unit, along with a floor plan; and the number of people living in each unit, including children more than 2 years old.

Dan Williamson, the city's attorney, assured council members Wednesday that other city laws are sufficient to deal with overcrowding concerns.

"The ordinances that are on the books as we speak can do all of of what this ordinance was designed to do," he said.

The measure was repealed unanimously, with council members Cory Storch and Rayland Van Blake absent.

Chad Weihrauch can be reached at (908) 707-3137 or

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.