Casper City Council Kills Proposed Property Maintenance Code
Casper City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted down a proposed property maintenance code after a community outcry.
At the least, critics said the International Property Maintenance Code would been cumbersome and costly to administer, if not redundant to property codes already mandated by state law
At the worst, they said it was an all-out assault on private property rights and a step toward communism.
"I just thought it was overreaching," Councilmember Shawn Johnson said later.
"I thought it was just ridiculous, the codes within there, chipped paint on your house, if you can smell your neighbor's chimney or barbecue vapors -- you're in violation of the code," Johnson said.
This particular code was among those from the International Code Council which publishes updates every three years, according to the council agenda from the June 19 meeting. The State of Wyoming adopts those codes, and "The State requires that Casper, as a home rule community, adopt minimum building and fire codes that are equivalent to, or more stringent than those standards adopted by the State."
Councilmembers had no objections to the building, residential, mechanical, plumbing, fuel gas, existing building, and fire codes. All those passed on second reading Tuesday.
But two weeks ago, Johnson, Jesse Morgan and Chris Walsh balked at the property maintenance code, and were joined by the others Tuesday. (Charlie Powell was not present at the meeting.)
Morgan called it "almost the definition of government overreach." He later cited part of the code and further detailed it on his Facebook page: "All exterior surfaces including but not limited to doors, window frames, trim, balconies, decks and fences be maintained in good condition." He summed part of the code about "unsafe conditions for wood are defined as horizontal or vertical cracks, damage from insects or deterioration."
Enforcing that and other provisions of the code would be nearly impossible, and it would hurt property owners who could not afford to pay for repairs, Morgan said. The most onerous if not authoritarian aspect of the code would authorize code enforcement officers to enter a building to perform inspections, he said.
But City Manager Carter Napier said the city receives numerous complaints from people who are concerned that nearby dilapidated, unkempt and unsafe properties are driving down their own property values. The code would give the tools needed to respond to those complaints and complaints about living conditions in rental properties, Napier said.
Tuesday, 11 people signed up to speak against the code during the public hearing before the vote.
Many others spoke afterwards.
Michelle Sabrosky referred to a statement Councilmember Mike Huber made that it was the city's job to keep people safe.
"It's not your job to keep me safe from myself; I'm sorry," Sabrosky said. She was most concerned about people who may enter her house and what they would look for. She likened the authority that would have been given to code enforcement officers to that of Nazi Germany.
"The substance of this is just awful," said Chuck Gray, Republican representative for House District 57.
After the meeting, Mayor Ray Pacheco said the council's reversal after the first reading was the result of the overwhelming community discussion and opposition.
The council, Pacheco said, now will instruct city staff to look at the code to create an ordinance dealing with life and safety issues without the unrealistic parts of the International Property Maintenance Code like barbecue smoke wafting across a neighbor's lawn.