Uniontown City Council proposed an ordinance that would help officials ensure the city’s rental properties are safe.

Unlike a rental fee ordinance proposed in 2016 that called for city landlords to pay an every-other-year fee for registration and inspection, the new ordinance would not impose one.

It would require landlord licenses for owners of all rental units except rental units occupied by immediate family members of the owner. It would also not include hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts, hospitals, nursing homes, personal care homes or assisted living facilities.

The licenses would last one year, and none would be issued to rental unit owners who haven’t paid any fines or costs stemming from any city code enforcement.

“You can be delicensed,” Councilman Martin Gatti said. “It’s a privilege to own property (in the city).”

Any rental unit owner who does not live within a 25-mile radius of the city must designate a manager who lives within that radius to be the owner’s agent “for service of process and receiving of notices and demands.”

Gatti said the ordinance will allow the city to have better knowledge of who owns properties in Uniontown. City officials have said they often find it difficult to track down the legal owners of dilapidated properties.

A first violation of the proposed ordinance would prompt a fine of $200, 30 days’ imprisonment, or both. A second violation would trigger a fine of $500 or 60 days’ imprisonment, or both. Each subsequent violation would lead to a fine of $1,000 or 90 days’ imprisonment, or both.

City officials also introduced an ordinance to keep better track of vacant homes in the city, requiring owners to register the properties with the city within 30 days of a vacancy or abandonment and by Feb. 1 of each year afterward. Violating the proposal could result in a fine or imprisonment, according to the ordinance.

Under either ordinance, violations could be appealed to a city board within 10 days. Their decision could also be appealed to common pleas court.

In other news, council adopted an ordinance introduced in May establishing property tax exemptions for some residential properties within the city.

The ordinance exempts property tax for rehabilitating a property and increasing its assessed value by at least $20,000 as determined by the Fayette County Tax Assessment Bureau, and for building one or more dwelling units on vacant land that increases a property’s tax assessment value by at least $20,000.

“Although these ordinances won’t eliminate the city’s pockets of blight overnight, they are major leaps in the right direction,” city solicitor Tim Witt said.

Expiring at the end of 2024, the ordinance exempts 100% of eligible assessment for five years following the year the residential construction or improvement becomes assessable. Exemptions end after five years.

Four weeks after the death of longtime council member Blair Jones last month, council appointed Steve Visocky to serve the remainder of Jones’ unexpired term through the end of 2019. Visocky was also selected by the Fayette County Democratic Party to be on the party ballot for a four-year term in November’s general election in place of Jones, according to the Fayette County Election Bureau.

Council also accepted the retirement of public works director Phil Mahoney, effective Dec. 6.

Mahoney has worked for the city for the last three decades.

“That’s a pretty big loss,” Gatti said of Mahoney.

Mahoney plans to still provide consulting to the city on certain interceptor sewer line projects.

“It’s been a ride,” Mahoney said.

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