Denise Swift joins blighted property panel in Warren

In addition to examining three properties, the City of Warren Blighted Property Review Committee welcomed a new face last week.

Denise Swift became the newest member of the committee, taking over for Joseph Sprentz.

The Committee is made up of one member each of city council, staff, planning commission and redevelopment authority, and a citizen member. Swift will fill the citizen position.

Committee members first evaluated a property at 202 Pennsylvania Avenue East for a first declaration of blight.

The building, which was converted into a restaurant in the 1980s, has had no water or sewage service since Feb. 2012 and hasn’t had a full food service inspection done since Dec. of 2005. An inspection for a liquor license renewal was done in 2010, but the property has been out of use since before that time, according to City Code Official Alan Gustafson who noted the property has been cited for nuisance code violations since 2008.

“It’s a pretty, old building,” City Councilmember James Zavinski, who sat in as council representative in place of committee member John Lewis, said.

“My feeling is, we don’t want to tear it down,” Gustafson said. “We just want to address these things. Hopefully, this will be a motivating factor to get some things done so we don’t have to tear it down. It’s turning into an eyesore.”

Gustafson noted the owner resides in Reynoldsville and has owned the building since 1995.

Committee members voted unanimously to make a first declaration of blight on the property.

Next, a property at 112 Jackson Avenue was evaluated for second blight designation.

The property, which consists of two apartments in one building and an outlying garage, has been unoccupied since May of 2011.

While the owner of the property has taken some steps to alleviate nuisance issues, such as cleaning debris from an upstairs electrical fire and boarding windows, committee members were informed he does not have the money for repairs at the site and will be attempting to sell the property.

Committee members voted unanimously to make a second designation of blight at the property.

A property at 209 Jackson Avenue was also evaluated for a second blight designation.

The property has been vacant since 2004 and its owner resides in New Jersey, according to Gustafson.

While reviewing nuisance and maintenance issues with the committee, Gustafson noted neighboring residents have made complaints about rodents living at the property.

“We’re going to be pursuing property maintenance violations at this point he’s (the owner) been given ample notice,” Gustafson said.

“He’s had nine months to do something about it,” Committee Chairman William Tarpenning added.

Committee members voted unanimously to make a second declaration of blight at the property.

The Jackson Avenue properties will now move to the city’s planning commission for review. Dependent upon planning commission action, the property will then move to the city’s redevelopment authority which will decide whether to move the property to city council. Finally, council can complete the five-step process and take formal action.

The Pennsylvania Avenue property will return to the blighted property for a second blight designation if current issues at the site are not resolved before moving on in the process.

Committee members were notified a property at 213 to 215 West Fifth Avenue, which had received a second blight designation, had been moved to the planning committee and that a property with a first blight designation at 116 to 118 Frank Street had been sold and repairs had been made.

Committee members elected officers. William Tarpenning was elected chair and John Lewis was elected vice-chair despite his absence from the meeting.

The committee’s next bi-monthly meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 25.