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Townhouse Residents Ineligible To Vote In Bonding Elections

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Townhouse Residents Ineligible To Vote In Bonding Elections

A 1957 attorney general’s opinion indicates that residents of Colonial Square Townhouses here are not eligible to vote in bonding elections. The city is holding to that ruling.

Under state law, only property owners are permitted to vote on bond issues.

Residents of the townhouses, on the city’s southeast side, were not permitted to vote on the county bond issues Nov. 8. At that time, the city attorney’s office relied on the 1957 opinion and told those residents they were ineligible to cast ballots on the bond issues.

Subsequently, residents said that at least two persons—casting absentee ballots — were allowed to vote on the bond issues and noted that all residents were permitted to vote on the city bond issues in April.

The city clerk’s office, on the matter of the absentee ballots, said that when a voter applies for a ballot and indicates he is a property owner he is not questioned. There is no method of checking registration books to determine if the voter is a property owner.

On the question of the residents voting in April, City Attorney Jacob F. Fahrner Jr. noted that there had been absentee ballots given out earlier to some of these residents—including ballots for the bond issues. Because of this, all were permitted to vote on bond issues at that election.

In 1957, the attorney general, Thomas M. Kavanagh, ruling on a similar situation said, “From the data available it appears that the relationship of the members of the corporation (Ruddiman Terrace Housing Co-Operative, Inc.) is in the nature of a tenant to a landlord.

“The facts here do not justify a conclusion that each member is buying his own apartment, the basic elements of ownership being absent. The right of occupancy of a unit under a lease does not make the tenant the owner thereof.

“It is my opinion that members of Ruddiman Terrace Housing Co-Operative, Inc., by virtue of such membership are not deemed to be owners of the real estate of the corporation for purposes of determining whether they have property assessed for taxes as required” by state law.

In this opinion he noted that none of the members of the corporation was assessed for taxes “in the name of the members nor paid directly by the individual members.”

The city attorney’s office recently noted that the corporation is legally the owner of the local townhouses and the tax-payer on each townhouse unit. As members of the corporation and residents of the townhouses, the citizens are not legally property owners, the city attorney's office held.