The State College Borough Council will hold a final public hearing on the Property Maintenance Code on April 3 for residents to voice opinions on the issue. Students and landlords alike have been following proposed changes for more than a year now as Council has discussed the code again and again.
You can read about the current proposed changes on page 77 of this agenda packet from Monday night’s Borough Council meeting. Some proposals leave students particularly uneasy, like a fine for using “upholstered interior furniture” outside the house and possible limitations on the number of guests allowed in fenced-in areas. Noting continued debate on the revisions, Council President Thomas Daubert moved for an additional public hearing.
While he asked for more time, Daubert still seemed committed to the revisions. “Come this fall, if your house’s occupancy limit is 200, that’s the most people you can have [in your home],” he said.
The code revisions have also been criticized for being too far reaching. UPUA Borough Liaison Morgan Goranson said during the initial talks that some revisions may overstep the code itself. “The purpose of the property maintenance code, from what I’ve seen, is not to tell people what to do in their homes or on their property, but to make sure there’s proper modes of egress and smoke alarms,” he said during the Feb. 6 meeting.
In addition to occupancy and furniture limits, noise control, drug possession, and roof occupancy all fall under the housing codes jurisdiction in the current proposal, each coming with a two-point penalty for residents and some carrying an additional monetary fine. The fines would be paid to whichever agency issues them and appeals are proposed to be heard by the issuing agency, essentially making the issuing agency act as both the judge and jury in these decisions if approved.
State College landlord Pat Vernon agreed with Goranson Monday night, saying nuisance enforcement like noise violations should be left out of the code’s control. “Code officers should not rule on human behavior,” Vernon said. He said the code has gotten out of control. “It started as ten pages about paint,” he attested, adding it could make life more expensive for students.