Village board sets new hearing on rental law

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Fredonia Village Attorney Dan Gard (left) and Trustee Doug Essek are pictured at Monday’s Fredonia Village Board meeting. Gard attempted to address concerns from Essek and Trustee Michael Barris about a proposed law governing residential rental properties in the village.

The Fredonia Village Board has an amended local law on rental housing ready to vote on, and set a public hearing on it for 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at its Monday meeting.

Mayor Athanasia Landis said the main changes from the proposal that were tabled Sept. 11 are that owners’ names no longer need to be posted somewhere in the house, and the square footage in the clause related to occupancy was tweaked. The numbers would now be the same as previously: one occupant per habitable floor area of 80 to 120 square feet, two per 120 to 180 square feet and three for 180 square feet and above.

There will still be registries of both renters and owners kept by village government if the law passes, and that bothered Trustee Michael Barris. He asked his fellow board members to look up “deep surveillance” on Wikipedia and told them, “I ask that we have some deep thought on this issue.”

Village Attorney Dan Gard replied that the registry information could be vital for code enforcement, police, fire and emergency medical services. “This particular thing … is so small and there is a compelling governmental interest in collecting this information. It’s less information than what’s on your drivers’ license,” he said.

Barris related that his first employer had a medical office in Berlin in November 1938, when Germany was under the Nazi regime, and her office was vandalized by police officers. He said he has since spoken to many people who did business in Germany during the Nazi era, “and that is the basis for my concern. It set a standard in my life in terms of government agency information gathering.”

Trustee Doug Essek wanted to know when and if the changes would be posted on the village web site. Gard said they would be put on as soon as possible.

Essek was also concerned about what could happen if the renter registry information was somehow mishandled. “Again, we’re not asking for Social Security numbers,” Gard replied. “We’re asking for name and date of birth of tenant and contact information.”

Landis said, “Surveillance is not having someone’s name and date of birth. It’s much more. … As part of society, we are asked to give up some information.”

In other business:

¯ The Fredonia Village Hall steps are getting fixed after the board passed a resolution agreeing to let A. Carapella Masonry do the work for $19,500. The company submitted a proposal on Sept. 18 to fix the steps. The project was not bid on but the resolution noted, “The Village Procurement Policy states public works projects with written quotes under $20,000 do not require public bidding.”

Landis said the project does not involve reinstalling a railing, but that Carapella is willing to guide village workers on how to do it. He and his crew will do all the stonework, she said.

Essek voted against the resolution because he said he had not seen the proposal.

¯ The board hired Ann Marie Johnson as village clerk. She will start Oct. 9 and make $16 an hour with benefits.