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City changes property inspection rules

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

After extensive negotiation with a number of Lockhart”s investment-property owners, the Lockhart City Council decided on Tuesday evening to soften the rules governing city inspection of rental property.
Last month, city officials and several local landlords formed a Housing Sub-Committee, which met on Nov. 30 to discuss

a number of issues – most notably the city”s stringent requirements regarding inspections of residential rental property.
In the past, the city required both an internal and external inspection of residential rent properties before utilities could be connected. Several property owners felt this requirement unfair, because inspections for owner-occupied properties were far more limited.
City officials maintain that the inspection requirements were intended to serve the safety of the renters. However, owners argued that the city requirements were tantamount to interference in private industry.
“If we don”t maintain our properties, than we lose customers,” property owners Frances Gage and Dorothy Anderson said often throughout negotiations. Both Gage and Anderson own several rental homes in Lockhart, and have been vocal in their opposition to the strict inspection requirements.
In the end, the council agreed with the property owners. On Tuesday, the inspection requirements were softened. New rules call for an external inspection of a rental property prior to connection of utilities in a tenant”s name — similar to the inspection performed before utilities can be connected in a homeowner”s name in owner-occupied property.
“I really want to thank this council for the way they have worked with us on this,” Gage said after the unanimous vote to soften the restrictions. “We”ve been working on this [for several years]… and this is the only council that has listened to us.”
In other council business:
City Planner Dan Gibson returned to the council for further direction on a “driveway ordinance” introduced earlier this month.
The ordinance, intended to provide contractors with guidelines regarding the spacing, width and frequency of curb-cuts for driveways and parking lots, was met with opposition.
“It seems like we”ve gone from very real and valid concerns about safety and incorporated a lot more into this,” said Councilmember Lew White. “We”ve added one more layer of regulations that someone is going to have to wade through, and this is a constant complaint.”
Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram acknowledged that the ordinance is designed to ensure safe construction of driveways, but took issue with some of the language.
“If we mean driveway approach, we need to say driveway approach,” he said. “I think that we need to speak plain English in these ordinances.”
His hope was that Gibson will create a more “user-friendly” ordinance.
In other business:
The council discussed annexation of a variety of properties, in preparation for the construction of State Highway 130. City staff will begin preparations for annexing property in 2006.
The council approved an agreement with the county”s Community Supervision (probation) department that will allow the probation department to offer probation clients community service hours for working on city public works projects.

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