Athens City Council introduced code changes for housing regulations on Monday that would result in higher penalties for violations.

The code changes would apply for any property in the city that is valid for rental inspections. Currently, if a property is violating city code, a first degree misdemeanor can be filed against the occupant, and the violation is considered a criminal offense, Law Director Lisa Eliason said.

Under the code changes, the fees associated with each misdemeanor would increase along with the degree of each misdemeanor itself. 

For the first violation, the occupant would be guilty of a minor misdemeanor and fined no more than $100. Additional misdemeanors may also include jail time.

A lot of people in Athens believe that landlords in Athens can just get away with code violations, Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. Those changes would adjust that misconception, as each day a property is in violation of city code would be considered a new offense. Code violation fees and misdemeanors would begin to stack up for property owners.

“This is a process to help ensure that the health safety and welfare of all our citizens ... are protected,” Fahl said.

Properties’ history of inspections and code violations are public record. Fahl suggested that the city makes these records available online so students and citizens can learn more about the safety of places they are considering living in. 

Council also introduced an ordinance for a street closure that would take place on September 18. 

The closure would close off Park Place, West Mulberry Street and a portion of Court Street for a barbecue sponsored by the Joint Police Advisory Council, or JPAC. The barbecue is an annual event that would take place outside of Baker Center.

“This is a really great event that welcomes members of the community, members of the student body and gives us all an opportunity to interact in a larger setting,” Sarah Grace, D-At Large, said. 

The closure would take place from 4-8 p.m., if approved.

The city also recently hired two new workers that will begin next Monday. An assistant director for Engineering and Public Works was hired. David Riggs, from Mason, Ohio, will be coming to Athens as the new city code director. 

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