When Belleville got called in court on its vague occupancy ordinance, we hoped the city would adopt more reasonable, resident-friendly standards.
Unfortunately, the city seems intent on doing what the American Civil Liberties Union warns against -- using civil rules to circumvent the need for a criminal warrant.
Belleville's concern should be whether a building is safe for occupancy. It's really not the city's business who lives in a person's home, their birthdates and their relationship to the main occupant unless there's a criminal investigation.
Residents should not have to notify the city when a child is born, an elderly relative comes to stay after a hospitalization or a significant other moves in. And residents definitely should not be treated as criminals and fined simply for failing to update that information.
Another concern: The city is still following an out-of-date International Property Maintenance Code rather than a revised code with less restrictive occupancy requirements.
The City Council is expected to vote soon on new language in the code to make it clear that any change in occupancy has to be immediately reported or the occupant can be fined. But if the council is wise it will take a step back.
Overly intrusive government does nothing to improve public safety but very well may drive away the people the city would most like to have as residents.