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Hancock City Council votes to repeal ordinance

Over a dozen people packed the Hancock City Council room on one of the coldest nights of the year. Most were there to add their input or simply their presence to the work session set up to discuss the relationship based occupancy ordinance passed by the council in November.

As the room heated up in both temperature and discussion, it became quite clear that the audience wanted one thing -- for the ordinance to be repealed. However, the council members also stood firm in that some type of “over-crowding” ordinance was needed.

They compromised. The ordinance was repealed but a committee will be set up to come up with a new ordinance to address the concerns of the council members and many of the people they represent. The council is asking that anyone interested in having their voice heard on the matter, contact them to possibly sit on this committee.

Mayor Bruce Malo started out the open discussion on the ordinance by reading a sample of the International Property Code which he felt contained wording that could replace part of the ordinance. The code specified the size of rooms in a home, number of bedrooms and how many people could occupy each bedroom and what would consist of a bedroom. He stressed that these regulations would be for rental property only, not for owner-occupied homes.

David Schmidgall, Hancock resident, homeowner and Hancock Concrete employee, asked Malo what he has asked at previous meetings. Why the ordinance was needed and adopted to begin with? He wanted to know if there was some issue that started the discussion.

Malo explained that it was an attempt to avert any new problems that could arise from over-crowding in single homes. It also addressed concerns property owners had about their property values and to preserve the character of a family neighborhood. The point was to be proactive even though there had been no specific problem.

Mark Mattson stated that he appreciated what the council was trying to do but he felt somewhat blindsided by the ordinance. He asked that the council repeal the current ordinance and then work on a new one.

Schmidgall asked if the council members had actually polled or surveyed the community to get a consenses of how voters felt. Malo stated that the city did not have the resources for this. He added that he had heard from several people who supported the ordinance, but did not feel comfortable attending the meeting. For some, he explained, it was because of where they were employed.

Schmidgall asked to poll each council member to see if they continued to support the ordinance. Councilman Jeff Kisgen then added that the reason for the meeting was to work with Hancock Concrete to fix the ordinance. He admitted that some of the wording needed to be changed. Kisgen then made a motion to repeal the ordinance and it passed with all councilmen present voting in favor. Councilman Dennis Schroeder was not present at the meeting.

As the meeting wound down, a comment was made that all agreed with. Each person was there for the same reason -- because they love the community and want to protect it. Schmidgall thanked the council members and stated that he appreciated the fact that they were willing to slow down and make compromises.

“It will be best to just start over and give the committee time to come up with a better plan,” Schmidgall concluded.