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South Charleston council bans homeowners from renting rooms

By Marta Ree Tankersley

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  South Charleston City Council passed an ordinance Friday evening prohibiting homeowners from renting rooms to boarders.

The new regulation addresses complaints ranging from parking problems to criminal activity, according to Mayor Frank Mullens.

"This ordinance gives us more power to address problems when they arise," Mullens said. "There is a small percentage of people who are causing problems, but we are responsible to all residents in the community. We need to address those who make their neighbors suffer because they aren't playing by the rules - whether it's high grass or parking issues."

Violation carries fines of $10 to $100 a day for up to 30 days and/or up to 30 days in jail, according to Councilman Jef Stevens.

Stevens, the lone dissenter, argued that while the council has "honorable intentions," he feels the ordinance unnecessarily criminalizes people's right to use their property to provide for themselves and their families.

"Some people rent out rooms out of necessity and need the money for household bills," said Stevens. "I think homeowners are diligent to look into the character of those to whom they rent."

However, Councilman Jeff Means said only those who cause problems in their neighborhoods would be visible to city officials and held accountable.

"If there is a person who is renting and they are not causing a problem, they will not be visible to the city," Means said. "We are not going out to actively enforce this law."

The action was taken to promote good neighborhoods, according to Councilwoman Kathleen Walker.

In other business, a new mobile application to enhance communications for city residents and visitors was unveiled by Scott Shaffer, president of Planet Mobile Media.

"This mobile app will give people information they need right at their fingertips," Shaffer said.

The free application, which is compatible with Android and Apple devices, can be downloaded by searching "city of South Charleston" in the Google and Apple stores.

The app will work in conjunction with the city's website and offers "immediate contact with our constituents," according to the mayor.

"This is a neat way to use technology so our constituents can get practically immediate attention," Mullens said. "It will also save time and money."

One feature will allow city officials to send out text notifications alerting residents of anything from water main breaks to traffic problems, according to Shaffer. A resident who sees a problem with a city street or utility can send a photo and description to the Public Works Department for a quick response, he said. The application also features a directory where residents can call or email city departments.

Also at the meeting, council members passed an ordinance that rezones sections of 2nd and 3rd avenues and C Street. Those areas will become commercial zones, to allow development of the properties near the 7-Eleven convenience store, where developers have proposed a strip mall and housing units.

Also Friday, Police Chief Brad Rinehart said the city is hiring three new officers soon. They already have completed background checks and interviews, he said.

  • The council approved the appointments of Sarah McDowell, of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and local realtor Anthony Runyan to the Economic Development Authority. Jim Canterbury, an engineer with Summit Engineering, was appointed to the Municipal Planning Commission.
  • City Attorney Michael Moore reported that the state Division of Natural Resources is reviewing regulations adopted for the urban deer hunting management program that council members approved last month.

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