Cedar­town of­fi­cials work­ing on blighted prop­er­ties or­di­nance

The Standard Journal - - Front Page - By KEVIN MYRICK Edi­tor

The City of Cedar­town is work­ing to­ward bring­ing a num­ber of prob­lems un­der con­trol, and of those prob­lems a fo­cus is be­ing placed on do­ing some­thing about blighted prop­er­ties through­out the city lim­its.

A or­di­nance to bring blight un­der con­trol in Cedar­town will soon be up for a vote, but ahead of mak­ing any de­ci­sions Cedar­town’s buid­ing in­spec­tor Joseph Martin wanted to make sure the city com­mis­sion un­der­stood ex­actly what he’s tar­get­ing.

So last week, com­mis­sion­ers and city man­ager Bill Fann took a bus tour in­stead of stay­ing in­doors for their com­mu­nity in­put ses­sion to see ex­actly what Martin wanted to tackle.

What the com­mis­sion­ers saw dur­ing their brief tour of South­east Cedar­town were some of the worst of­fend­ers when it comes to res­i­den­tial blight, with at least a half dozen of the homes on the tour found to have col­lapsed roofs, and one of those with people still liv­ing in­side.

“Ob­vi­ously, we’re con­cerned for the safety and wel­fare for any­one who lives in con­di­tions like that,” said city man­ager Bill Fann. “Some­times there are per­sonal con­di­tions that af­fect that type of thing. But no one should have to live in that type of squalor.”

Fann said the or­di­nance to bring these blighted prop­er­ties back up to code will force those who own the prob­lem houses to pay a seven­fold tax in­crease. If those items hous­ing in­spec­tors have noted are fixed, then the tax in­crease are cred­ited back to the property, he said.

“I would pre­fer that those prop­er­ties that can be re­ha­bil­i­tated are fixed. Those are some beau­ti­ful old homes over in that neigh­bor­hood, if they had been kept at min­i­mal lev­els would be worth much more than they are to­day,” Fann said.

“Hope­fully, there’s some­one out there who would like to par­tic­i­pate in some de­vel­op­ment projects for that kind of neigh­bor­hood. These are his­tor­i­cal homes that could be worth a lot of money if fixed up.”

For city com­mis­sion­ers like Jordan Hub­bard, there is no sim­ple so­lu­tion to blight, but the new or­di­nance up for vote in the com­ing months will give the city a new tool to com­bat prob­lem res­i­dences.

“The thing is, the city’s had a list for a while. The key is hav­ing the sup­port of all the com­mis­sion­ers,” Hub­bard said. “A lot of times people for­get that people have neigh­bors, and people have put their heart and soul and mort­gage pay­ments into a house, and then they have this next door, which can hurt the value of their property. It’s un­fair for them too, it should be fair for ev­ery­body.”

Hub­bard and Fann both agreed the idea for tar­get­ing blight isn’t to force people out of homes or to tar­get one neigh­bor­hood over an­other, but sim­ply to brighten Cedar­town’s res­i­den­tial ar­eas to make them more com­mer­cially vi­able.

“Now granted this is not the only area where we’ll be tar­get­ing, be­cause its com­ing into the city,” he said.

Hub­bard pointed out if the town looks bad, it’s hard to at­tract businesses to open their doors in Cedar­town.

“If we’re not will­ing to in­vest in our city, then why would some- body from out­side want to come in here and in­vest,” he said.

The worst prop­er­ties the city is tar­get­ing for ren­o­va­tion or de­mo­li­tion in­clude this list pro­vided by the city:

Two prop­er­ties in the Goodyear Vil­lage on Fourth and Sixth Streets that were burned and need to be de­mol­ished; 1327 Brooks; 718 and 723 Cleo; 708 and 724 Daven­port; 141 and 147 Ella­wood; 521 Gibson; 200, 204 and 219 Mer­ritts Av­enue; 211 Martin Luther King Blvd., and 509 Line St.

The city in­cluded two businesses on their worst of­fend­ers list, the old Del Taco build­ing on Main Street and an­other closed commercial property on Wis­sahickon Street.

All of these property own­ers are the ones the city will be tar­get­ing with the tax in­crease first if the mea­sure passes fol­low­ing a com­mis­sion re­view and vote in an up­com­ing city com­mis­sion ses­sion.

The sit­u­a­tion the city is try­ing to avoid is hav­ing to take ab­sen­tee land­lords and home­own­ers to court un­der con­dem­na­tion pro­ceed­ings for not fix­ing the prob­lems with the houses un­der their own­er­ship.

“We try ev­ery course of ac­tion avail­able to us be­fore we go to court,” Fann said. “The rea­son is be­cause we’re try­ing to save the tax­pay­ers as much as pos­si­ble. It’s Joe Cit­i­zen’s dol­lar that gets spent on the de­mo­li­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of those prop­er­ties.”

Ac­cord­ing to the list of blighted prop­er­ties the city re­leased fol­low­ing the tour, the city tore down a num­ber of struc­tures al­ready it con­sid­ered blighted, to­tal­ing 33 prop­er­ties in all. Those in­cluded res­i­dences in some of the ar­eas be­ing tar­geted cur­rently, in­clud­ing three prop­er­ties on Cleo Street, three prop­er­ties on Prior Street and two prop­er­ties on Thomp­son Street.

Kevin Myrick/ SJ

This house, lo­cated in the 500 block of East Gibson Street near the in­ter­sec­tion with South Broad Street, is just one of many ex­am­ples of blighted prop­er­ties within the city lim­its of Cedar­town.

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