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story.lead_photo.caption Kathy Wells (left), the current president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, is shown in this file photo seated beside Annie Abrams, Tony Wood and Sam Ledbetter.

The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday voted to update the city's rental inspection ordinance, moving code enforcement officers from a two-year inspection cycle to a five-year cycle and establishing a sample system for inspecting units in apartment complexes.

At Tuesday's meeting in City Hall, advocates, as well as Housing and Neighborhood Programs Director Victor Turner, said they hope the new legislation will make for a more efficient rental inspection system, though some city directors had doubts and wanted the ordinance be deferred.

Little Rock has nearly 28,000 registered rental properties, and since 1994 the city code has required staff members to inspect half of those properties each year. Turner said the new ordinance makes no substantial changes other than changing the inspection cycle.

"We know where our problems are, but right now we're not able to focus on it because we're trying to do 27,000 over two years, which from the time it was passed has never been achieved," Turner said. "I just think this is the best approach that we can take for the amount of human resources that we have. We've got 38 total code officers. When this was passed, we had 18."

The original rental inspection ordinance also required code enforcement officers to inspect every unit in an apartment complex. The new ordinance lets them inspect 20% in each complex when that complex's turn comes up in the five-year cycle, Turner said.

Jim Lynch, a past president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, spoke in favor of the ordinance, which he said was developed by neighborhood leaders working with City Manager Bruce Moore.

"We had some excellent properties, especially in the downtown area, just getting ravaged by irresponsible and abusive landlords," Lynch said. "We need to make more efficient use of the manpower we have given [code enforcement officers] through the budget, and right now we waste an enormous amount of their field time."

Kathy Wells, the current president of the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, also spoke in favor of the new ordinance, with state Rep. Denise Ennett, a Little Rock Democrat, at her side in support. Ennett did not arrive at the meeting in time to turn in a card requesting to speak.

Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix asked Lynch to name the neighborhood groups that were involved in drafting the new ordinance and if all-black neighborhoods were included. Lynch cited neighborhood associations covering downtown, Hillcrest, Capitol View/Stifft's Station and around the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

"I don't know of many minorities that participated in this program," Hendrix said. "Can we hold this thing and take a look at it?"

Ward 3 City Director Kathy Webb said she was also going to ask for the ordinance to be deferred, saying she normally agreed with the ordinance's proponents but wanted to address concerns from constituents who couldn't attend the meeting but had also worked on the legislation for a long time.

Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson made a motion to defer the ordinance for two weeks, which Hendrix seconded. Webb and at large City Director Joan Adcock also voted to defer the ordinance, but were defeated.

City directors ultimately approved the ordinance in a voice vote. Richardson could be heard voting "present."

Metro on 09/18/2019


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