Council to host town hall meeting over controversial ordinance

Sep. 27—SUNBURY — Sunbury officials say they will hold a town hall meeting before they plan to enforce a controversial landlord-tenant ordinance that banned convicted drug dealers from renting in Sunbury for at least seven years.

It also requires that a manager be designated for all rental properties. The council passed the ordinance in 2012 under former Mayor David Persing.

Councilman John Barnhart, who is in charge of the code department, said he is working with the code office and Solicitor Joel Wiest on enforcing an already in place ordinance that will require landlords to provide their tenants' photo identifications and background checks to City Hall.

Mayor Josh Brosious said the board wanted to hold a town hall meeting so that landlords can come and voice concerns or ask questions they may have on the ordinance.

"We think it will be better to give the public a chance to voice any concerns during a town hall type meeting," he said Monday night during a City Council meeting. "We will announce a date soon."

The ordinance says the landlord will need a photo ID and background check of who is living in the structure and the manager or owner must live within 25 miles of Sunbury and be available in case of emergencies. A rash of 2012 drug raids that included several Sunbury renters was a catalyst for the ordinance, Persing said at the time.

Currently the ordinance 134-9 "Illegal activities," reads, "An individual convicted of any felony drug offense, upon conviction and expiration of any applicable appeal period, shall not be eligible to be a tenant of a residential rental unit. "Felony drug offense" shall mean an offense that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year under any law of the United States or of a state or foreign country that prohibits or restricts conduct relating to narcotic drugs and other controlled substances, and specifically including any prohibited act under Pennsylvania's Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act."

The ordinance goes on to say, "a convicted illegal substance distributor shall not be eligible to be a tenant of a residential rental unit and shall be considered in violation of this chapter. Seven years after an individual's conviction and the expiration of any applicable appeal period, that individual shall be eligible to be a tenant of a residential rental unit, provided that the individual has no additional conviction(s) of any felony drug offense during that seven-year period. Failure of the property owner to remove said convicted individual from the residential rental unit shall result in non-renewal of the housing permit."

Council also voted Monday night to accept a $10,000 donation to the Sunbury Wetlands Ecological Education Park (SWEEP) project from Geisinger Medical Center, in Danville after former Mayor Kurt Karlovich made the announcement.

"This is great to see so many people wanting to get involved with the project Karlovich said.

The SWEEP project site sits between Line and Race streets and North 6th and North 8th streets.

Council meets again on Oct. 10 inside City Hall, on Market Street.