BELLEVILLE — The City Council voted to table an ordinance related to occupancy permits Tuesday night after hearing concerns from residents and aldermen.
The city currently requires occupancy permits, but the ordinance would clarify that only residents identified on the permit -- by name, relationship and birthday -- are allowed to live in the respective dwelling.
The ordinance would also be amended to allow residents up to a year to comply in any case where the birth or adoption of a child causes the household to violate the maximum occupancy allowance. Currently, there's no timeline for notification.
A handful of residents who spoke during public participation questioned the ordinance's intent, language and legality. A couple speakers said the ordinance would protect residents from unsafe living conditions.
Belleville landlord Rick Brown questioned several parts of the amendment and echoed the sentiments of other speakers:
* What happens to the family if they don't comply after a year? Do they have to move out or expand their home?
* How does the city decides who is a resident or who is at a home temporarily? Do residents have to register foreign exchange students or grandparents taking care of their grandchildren?
* If a baby dies, does a family have to take the child's name off of the permit?
Brown said he's entitled to his privacy and shouldn't have to tell the city who is in his home or his bed.
"Sex offenders have to register, not law-abiding citizens," Brown said. "Who are you trying to control, mayor?"
Geri Boyer, a Belleville resident and owner of Kaskaskia Engineering Group, said that when she was a renter, it was a protection for her when city officials inspected her apartment for any unsafe living conditions. She also sees the city serving as a third party mediator between the landlord and renter in such situations.
Police Chief Bill Clay explained that requiring residents to list names on occupancy permits had practical applications for the Police Department.
Clay said that if the permit only lists the number of people in a household, officers would only be able to take a head count. Officers would not be able to address complaints, for example, where transients are causing issues in a neighborhood or conduct probation checks for non-Belleville residents staying in the city.
Mayor Mark Eckert said the city's intent was to make the ordinance more lenient, giving residents more time to report to the city when they have a child. The city's concern is also when 10 residents live in a home built for four people.
"We're trying to make sure people are safe ..." Eckert said. "We're not trying to govern everybody or who's sleeping with who."
Eckert said city officials use discretion in cases of overcrowding complaints.
Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden, a mayoral candidate, said the requirements are "almost un-American" and said the city could get in trouble making exceptions in some cases.
Hayden asked if longtime residents of Belleville would have to move if they have an addition to their family, not knowing they would violate occupancy codes when they purchased the home.
Eckert said the city might consider including a variance in the ordinance to give residents a way to challenge such determinations. He suggested tabling the ordinance so aldermen have time to improve the language.
Fourteen aldermen voted "yes" to table the ordinance for 30 days. Ward 3 Alderman Gabby Rujawitz said present. Ward 6 Alderman Paul Seibert was absent because of illness.
Eckert asked residents to put their concerns in writing for the Public Health and Housing Committee, which will review the ordinance when it meets next at 6 p.m. Feb. 6.
When contacted by the News-Democrat, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said the city needs a compelling reason to ask residents to register a child's name because the government already has a myriad of ways to gather such information.
Spokesman Ed Yohnka said city officials should also be cautious of using civil laws as a way to circumvent the need for criminal warrants, punishing people for making life choices they don't agree with and affecting residents living together for cultural and economical reasons.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.