Residents fight against vacant housing


By Amanda Amsel
Staff Writer

As the housing market continues to bounce back after the recession, Prairie Township residents are worried that their property values may not improve.

Area residents recently voiced their concerns to the Prairie Township trustees during an emotional trustees meeting.

“I live in Darby Estates and am really concerned about my property value because there are so many nuisance properties in our neighborhood,” said Roger Spencer, a concerned Prairie Township resident. “What are you really doing about these nuisance properties?”

Spencer says that in his neighborhood alone there are a handful of properties that are either in foreclosure or have massive amounts of trash piled up in their front yards. He fears if he ever wants to sell his home this would be a serious issue and could lower the value of his property.

However, declaring a property a nuisance is not as easy as one may think. A lengthy process has to take place, which upsets area residents.

“A resident has to first report the nuisance property and then we go out and inspect the property,” said Connie Swisher, Prairie Township zoning inspector. “If we agree we tag the property and the owner has seven days to abate the issue.”

If an owner still does not comply, the township trustees then use pictures to determine if the property should be declared a nuisance property. If the property is declared a nuisance a certified letter is sent to the owner of the property declaring what issues they must correct.
If a property owner still does not comply the township will come in and correct the issue and assess a penalty to the owner’s taxes.

In 2013 the township received 256 nuisance complaints and the trustees declared 176 nuisance properties. The nuisance issue was then corrected on 82 properties.

“The board of trustees takes this issue very seriously,” Swisher said. “They have been very aggressive in getting these issues addressed and have handled every issue fairly.”

However, some residents do not agree with this and think the board should be doing even more.

“I do not think residents should have to report an issue to get something done,” Spencer said.

“The trustees should be proactive and assigned to residential areas where they proactively report and enforce these properties.”

Spencer also thinks there should be stiffer fines if a residence is a repeat offender.

“They come out and clean up a property and then a few months later it is in the same condition again,” he said. “There should be more action taken if they are a repeat offender.”

While no compromise on this issue may arise in the immediate future, the trustees do welcome suggestions by the community on how they can improve this process.

“For most people your home is your biggest investment, so I understand area residents frustration,” said Tracy Hatmaker, township administrator. “One of the goals of local government is to improve the quality of life for our citizens and this includes property value. We welcome suggestions and want to have a open dialogue about this issue.”

To voice your concerns about a nuisance property in your neighborhood, contact Connie Swisher at or call 878-3317 ext. 102.


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