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New city fees for rental property sparks complaint

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By Molly Haines

The second reading of an amendment to an Owenton City Council ordinance that would require landlords renting or leasing property to pay a licensing fee became a topic of debate at the council’s Dec. 6 meeting.
A first reading of the ordinance was held Nov. 1.
According to the amended ordinance at its first reading, all landlords renting or leasing property would be assessed by the number of units owned as of Jan. 1 each year.
The fee for the first apartment or house would be set at $75 and each additional unit would cost $10. The first commercial property will be set at $125, and each additional property at $20.
The wording of the ordinance was changed before a second reading on Dec. 6, to say each “apartment building” would be $75 and each additional apartment building or house would be $10 each.
With the change between the first and second reading, the fee would apply to each building and not each individual unit at each property.
During the meeting, John Ashcraft of Ashcraft Realty, perhaps the largest property rental businesses in the county,  told the council and Owenton Mayor Doug West that he felt he was being singled out for the new fees and this was a new tax directed at his business.
During a sometimes heated exchange, West said the proposal doesn’t create a new tax, simply amends the city’s business license laws.
West said there are approximately 42 different landlords in the city of Owenton and each one would be required to comply with the  amendment.
Andrea Shindlebower, a legal analyst with the Kentucky League of Cities, said no substantial changes can be made to a proposed ordinance between the first and second reading.
Although grammatical problems and minor mistakes could be changed, Shindlebower said nothing that changes the way the proposal would function can be changed.
“You can’t add or take away anything, like change any numbers,” Shindlebower said.
If substantial changes were made, the city would have to start the process over with another first reading.
Ashcraft said the ordinance was presented incorrectly at its first reading, because of its “unit” wording.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Ashcraft said he felt the amended section of the ordinance has been presented incorrectly.
“I have no problem paying my taxes as long as they are implemented correctly and fairly,” Ashcraft said.
The council agreed to table the measure for now but West said the amendment would come back up for vote at the Jan. 3 meeting.