Redevelopment board updated on blighted properties

The Warren County Redevelopment Authority (RDA) presented updates of blighted properties at its meeting Tuesday morning.

Andrea Stapleford, RDA solicitor, said, “I have good news to report. I did get a letter back from Mr. Johnson (the owner of the property that would be needed for access to the Wanda Miller property in Clarendon) stating he is willing to sell the property for at least $1,500, and he will pay two years back taxes.”

Authority member Gib Sanford said, “We don’t want it (the Miller property). It’s an accident waiting to happen. The porch fell off last winter, leaving two big gaping holes.”

Stapleford replied, “If it was transferred into the (RDA’s) name, for fifteen hundred dollars, and we turned around and sold it to somebody else, because we had a party that was interested in taking down the building and making it a park space. It would be a lot cheaper than going through a conservatorship action.” She also noted that the Miller property owed $2,200 in back taxes.

Authority Chairman John Zavinski asked, “Are we allowed to use taxpayers’ money to pay someone else’s taxes?”

Stapleford answered, “We could use funds that have been set aside to address the blight.”

Zavinski said, “We should get the ball rolling, this thing has been laying on us for three or four years,” and authority member Terry Hawk said, “I agree. I am still a little worried about liability.”

Chief Clerk Pam Matve said a small liability policy should be in effect already. A motion to acquire the properties was seconded and passed.

In reference to the Hecei property on E. Fifth Avenue in Glade Township, Stapleford said that the RDA needed to set a plan in place, a set procedure for establishing conservatorships.

Hawk asked, “Can we get a key to the place? Will she let us in?”

Stapleford said yes, and Hawk said it wouldn’t require a contractor to see if the floor is sagging. “We could go take a look, and determine something right off the bat,” he said.

Regarding three adjoining properties on Front Street in Glade Township, Stapleford said, “They (the owners) stopped by the office, probably a week after the meeting last month. I asked them to come to the meeting, and I thought that they would probably be here.”

Matve noted that they were given plenty of time to resolve a property line dispute and the authority needs to know what their plan of action is.

Dan Glotz, Warren County planning director, added, “They were making good progress for awhile.”

Zavinski said, “Should we contact them again? We’ve contacted them so many times.”

Stapleford replied, “I get tired of saying ‘Let’s write a letter’, but (we can send) a letter from me that says because we have not heard from them, our next step is going to be to file a conservatorship action, and we will be moving forward with this at our June meeting.” Zavinsky agreed, and Hawk said, “We’re not waiting past our June meeting.”

Zavinski asked about the Passinger property at 102 Cottage Place in Russell, and Stapleford said, “She will accept $4,000 for the property, and she wants 30 days to get any of her belongings out of there. My thought was to get her in touch with this person, who… is interested in buying it. I will get the information I have to the buyer’s attorney.”

Sheffield Township notified the RDA with an outline of its requirements for the DiPerro property on Route 6. Hawk said they want, “New windows, new doors, new siding on all four sides, with a new roof on the entire building. If these requests cannot be met, then the structure will need to be demolished. Signed, James McMillen, supervisor.”

Matve said the township was asking for an improvement in the cosmetics of the building, adding, “That’s not what we’re here for.”

Glotz noted, “The definition of blighted is something that is vacant, uninhabitable… He’s still using it, and it is not abandoned. They don’t have a zoning ordinance in place in Sheffield, so you can’t dictate what a building is used for. It’s a free for all. Anything goes.”

Hawk suggested the subject be tabled until the next meeting, citing the need to be realistic about expectations.

The next item on the agenda was the Filiatrault property, 101 Hall Street in Sheffield. Stapleford reported that the owner is willing to sign the deed, but she wanted to know whether the property should be transferred to the county or the RDA.

Hawk wanted to know what the legal ramifications were, because of insurance, and Matve said she would check on the insurance. A motion to accept the property in lieu of condemnation passed.

The last item on the old business was the Hackley property 101 Hall Street in Sheffield. The building was supposed to be demolished by the end of May, but Hawk said it’s “up in the air. Evidently, she is shopping around (for a new demolition contractor).”

In new business, Glotz discussed the Tonya Elletson property on Farm Lane in Pleasant Township saying, “I did a little bit of research on it to give the (planning) commission some background, and I learned the property is actually now in repository, which means that any liens would be erased, with the exception of lot rent. I believe the owner of the property is the father of the young lady who owns the trailer. Apparently the parents contacted the assessment office, and said ‘We are converting it over to storage.’ Well, the zoning ordinance does not allow mobile homes to be used for storage. So we’ve got a situation where it’s not an allowable use as storage, and you’ve got the ownership of the trailer, which is blighted in one person’s name sitting on a lot that’s owned by another individual. So, whose responsibility is it? Is it the owner? Is it the property owner?”

The authority referred the matter to Stapleford.

The David and Judyth Smith property, 463 Pleasant Drive, was the last of the new business. Glotz reported that the owners are going to remove the building, and it will be gone by the end of summer.

At the end of the meeting, Zavinski said, “There is an organization called Pa COG (council of governments), and everybody has been watching what Warren County has been doing on blighted properties. We’re kind of the guinea pig.” He also said a number of COGs from across the state are very interested in Warren’s work and would like to set up a meeting. Hawk said the program is “the most unique in the state.”

Zavinski added, “They’ve picked up that we are doing a great job. Everybody’s doing a great job. Plus the fact, you name it, we’ve touched upon it.”