City Redevelopment Authority discusses merit of legal action

The City of Warren Redevelopment Authority’s meeting Thursday morning featured discussion of the merits of a legal action the city has never put into play before and resolution of procedural matters.

City Code Official Alan Gustafson reviewed the possibility of assuming conservatorship to resolve blight issues at 117 Beaty Street.

Gustafson asked authority members to consider petitioning the Warren County Court of Common Pleas for power over the property under the Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservatorship Act of 2008.

Under the act, properties which:

Have not been legally occupied for 12 months,

Have not been actively marketed for 60 days,

Are not subject to existing foreclosure action,

And have been owned by the same individual or entity for over six months,

And meets at least three of nine other criteria including:

Being a public nuisance,

Being in need of substantial rehabilitation and none has been done in a year,

Being unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use,

Being in a condition which materially increases the risk of fire,

Being subject to unauthorized entry or had to be secured against such by a municipality,

Presenting an attractive nuisance to children,

Having vermin, debris, uncut weeds or physical deterioration not removed by the owner which present safety hazards,

Being in a condition which hurts property values or nearby business,

Being an attractive nuisance for drugs, prostitution, vagrancy or other illicit purposes,

Can be subject to having a “party in interest” named conservator by the Court of Common Pleas.

Conservatorship allows a “party in interest” to take steps to bring the building into compliance with all municipal codes and plans for the area.

“Parties in interest” under the act besides owners, lien holders and secured creditors include:

Residents living within 500 feet of the building,

Business owners or businesses within 500 feet of the building,

The municipality the property is located within,

The school district the property is located within,

Nonprofit corporations, including redevelopment authorities, located within the municipality in which the building is located whose purposes include community development, economic development, historic preservation or promotion or enhancement of affordable housing opportunities.

“In a nutshell, this is a quick and easy way to avoid eminent domain,” Gustafson said.

The property at 117 Beaty Street has provided unique challenges for the authority due to the unusual circumstances under which it has been abandoned.

The residence was the site of a murder-suicide and, as a result, the owners are deceased. Due to the nature of the owners deaths, their estate has not taken steps to care for the property. Further, though the property has a mortgage, the bank holding it is not foreclosing on the property.

According to Gustafson, waiting for the property to go to tax sale could take years.

Due to the extensive damage to the property caused by years of neglect, the authority would likely demolish the structure, an action not explicitly listed under the powers granted a conservator.

Warren County is currently exploring the possibility of conservatorship in regards to a property in Glade Township and authority members are considering waiting to see how the county issue resolves before pursuing the power themselves.

Authority members also agreed to consult their solicitor in regards to the issue, contact the bank holding the mortgage on the property and research the owners’ estate in an attempt to resolve the issue; but took no action.

Officers for the authority were also elected and the time of authority meetings was changed.

Following a motion to re-instate 2012 officers, Chuck Hayes was elected chair, Michael Boyd was elected vice chair, Robert Kaemmerer was elected treasurer and Tricia Durbin was elected secretary.

Meeting times were changed to 11 a.m. while meeting dates remained the third Thursday of each month.

Gustafson also announced letters will be sent to owners of properties currently under the scrutiny of the city for blight issues.

“We’re going to be pursuing these for property maintenance code violations,” Gustafson said. “A blanket letter will be going out saying, basically, comply or tear it down.”