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Greenmont residents discuss proposed drug house ordinance

After an hour of going back and forth on the pros and cons of a proposed ordinance that would make owners of drug houses responsible for what is going on in the property, a group of Greenmont residents will bring the plan to Morgantown City Council.

The gist of the proposal — according to Adelheid Schaupp, who wrote the plan on behalf of the Greenmont residents concerned about drug activity in their neighborhood — allows for two reports of illegal activity.

If the activity does not cease, then the owner would face possible jail time.

“The vacant homes are being used for criminal activity,” Schaupp said during a meeting of the Greenmont Neighborhood Association Monday evening at Gene’s Beer Garden.

While the proposal will be sent to Morgantown City Council for consideration, it would be at least six weeks before any action would be taken, said Mayor Bill Kawecki, who attended the meeting.

“We recognize the problem,” Kawecki said. “The question is how we go forward.”

This is not the first time an ordinance has been promoted and pushed forward by neighbors. In September 2018, residents of Sanford Street asked council to look at drug house laws. The issue, however, did not gain much traction.

Schaupp said she tried to make the ordinance as reasonable as possible. The owner of a nuisance property will have the ability to appeal. In addition, domestic violence was not included in the proposal.

“We’re introducing another ordinance because what we have on the books does not work,” Schaupp said.

Several people, however, question whether the ordinance is fair to low-income residents who might not be able to afford anything else. In fact, the ACLU has sent a letter to council about the issue, with the goal of bettering the community and not unfairly criminalizing people.

“Absentee landlords are a problem in Morgantown,” said Shane McManus, who owns several rentals. “We want to see our community get better.”

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