By Dedra Cordle
Seeing vacant properties in neighborhoods is an unpleasant sight for many homeowners, but when that property is right next to yours is another matter entirely.
For months, the property next to Urbancrest resident Lois Burge has been vacant. Left unattended, high grass, noxious weeds and critters have become a common sight.
During the November meeting, Burge attended the village council meeting to ask if anything could be done to help quell the problems that lie next door.
The village council and administration expressed sympathy with the problem Burge is facing, but said that there is little that can be done to immediately fix the problem she and others face regarding vacant properties.
According to Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr., the village has to follow state procedures to clean up vacant and abandoned properties. He said oftentimes, these properties are moving through the court system which slows up the process and makes it difficult to clean up the problem in a timely fashion. Adding to the legal complexity, he said, is the fact that many vacant properties in the village have questions surrounding them regarding ownership.
“Most of these properties are heir properties,” he said.
Barnes said he, like all residents in the village, does not like to see vacant lots with high grass or noxious weeds in the village but added that the issue is being addressed.
“We have been addressing the issue,” he said, referring to the village’s partnership with The Central Ohio Community Investment Corporation (COCIC) to rehabilitate or demolish vacant or blighted properties. “The problem didn’t get this way overnight, and unfortunately it is not going to get cleared up overnight.”
Councilwoman Veronica Shepherd said what they need to be doing is enforcing the ordinance addressing vacant or abandoned structures the council passed in 2008.
“We have to start following through with the laws we have on the books,” she said.
When a question arose as to whether the village could go onto private property and maintain noxious grounds, code enforcement officer Randy Bogue said they cannot.
“Not without going through the court system,” he added.
Bogue said the village is bound by state guidelines so all they can do is issue violation notices. If those are not heeded, the village can ask for a cease and desist through the courts.
He said he knows that residents are frustrated by the slow process, but said the village is doing all that they are able to do at this time.
“We are doing our due diligence to fix these properties,” he said.
Barnes said the village will continue their partnership with COCIC and hopefully that can lessen the burden of vacant and blighted properties.