North Platte City Hall

North Platte City Hall, 211 W. Third St.

The second draft of an ordinance updating North Platte’s housing codes won Planning Commission backing Tuesday at the start of a packed agenda that took more than two hours to finish.

The nine-member panel duplicated its 9-0 vote of May 26 in favor of the proposal’s first draft, which was set aside afterward so a special five-member committee could pare back its scope.

Council members, who got their first look at the revised housing-code ordinance July 21, had been expected to take a first-round vote on it at their next regular meeting Aug. 4.

But Planning Administrator Judy Clark said the council will take it up Aug. 18, along with 11 unrelated requests involving a total of eight proposals that the panel reviewed Tuesday.

Clark and Chief Building Inspector Dave Hahn again explained that the housing-code ordinance’s purpose was mainly to make explicit what the city has long been doing in practice.

“The staff currently enforces the code as written, so we don’t want anyone to think this is anything new,” Clark said.

It would formally put the city’s Development Department in general and its two building inspectors in particular in charge of enforcing health and safety regulations on existing structures.

They’ve been doing that informally for up to 40 years, since the city’s last health inspector retired and wasn’t replaced. The draft ordinance substitutes “building inspector” for “health inspector” in 21 different places.

Mayor Dwight Livingston appointed the five-member committee after some residents questioned the extent of the first draft’s reliance on the 2018 edition of the model International Property Maintenance Code.

Members were Clark, Hahn, Fire Marshal George Lewis, Councilman Lawrence Ostendorf and housing advocate Judy Pederson, a former council member.

Committee members mostly retained the model code’s recommendations of updated language for health and safety regulations, Clark and Hahn told the Planning Commission.

But the group stripped out portions dealing with community beautification and regulation of private swimming pools, spas and hot tubs, they said.

“The city has never regulated swimming pools or spas or Jacuzzi tubs,” Clark said. “There’s no intention to regulate those.”

City Council candidate Mark Woods, himself a landlord, repeated earlier concerns that the housing-code update would in fact impose new regulations that would interfere with property rights and drive up rents for tenants like his.

“I don’t know that these (inspectors) have time to do more. Do you?” said Woods, who is challenging Ostendorf in Ward 4. “If you aren’t, maybe we should get rid of one of you.”

“We have a staff of seven. There’s 11,800-some properties in the city of North Platte,” Clark replied. “We will not be going door-to-door knocking on everybody’s property. This is not the intent of the code at all.”

But she said the ordinance’s revisions would give city staff “guidance to go on instead of a vague statement” about what they can do when health and safety problems with structures are brought to their attention.

“If a wall is falling in, it’s very important that (it) be taken care of by the owner of the property,” Clark said. Acting to correct such problems “is something we’ve already been doing.”

Residents can review the proposed housing-code ordinance by downloading the council’s July 21 “agenda book.” To find it, click “City Council Agendas & Minutes” under the City Council tab at ci.north-platte.ne.us/government/city-council.

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