City council passes new safety code

Alison Adams

Kent City Council passed an interior maintenance code by a 9-to-6 vote Wednesday night that will require property owners to follow new safety standards.

Council member Heidi Shaffer, who proposed the code, said the safety of college students is one of her main concerns.

If students or their parents have concerns, they will be able to take them directly to the city.

“If there’s a safety violation, if a building could become a fire hazard, we’re talking about some serious violations,” Shaffer said. “It’s very unlikely this is going to happen for homeowner-occupied properties, but there are situations that I would want to see the city intervene.”

Council member John Kuhar, who voted against the code, said he finds it unnecessary. He said residents are already protected from unfit environments because they have resources to call on, like the health and fire departments.

Officials will have to be invited in to look at a property in question, but those opposing the code still feel it could become an invasion of privacy.

“When you rent a piece of property, it’s the same as if you own it,” Kuhar said. “You’re taking a right away from that person. It’s an invasion of your personal property rights, and I never will support anything like this or anything that has anything to do with it.”

Council member Robin Turner also voted no because of unintended consequences that could emerge, although he said he believes the intention of the code is well meaning.

“Civil liberties seem to be at risk,” Turner said. “While I do agree with the issue of rental and commercial property, I do believe there needs to be some independent oversight, but I have a real concern about a person’s civil liberties and how those will be impacted.”

Shaffer said she doesn’t think the city government will become overreaching, but if it does, it will be dealt with.

“Safety outweighs privacy in this situation,” Shaffer said.

Contact Alison Adams at [email protected].