City planners go into blight

The City of Warren’s reinvigorated efforts to address blighted property has made it to the Planning Commission.

Blighted property was the focus of Wednesday’s meeting.

Commission chair Don Nelson noted that it is good that the Blighted Property Review Committee is functioning but not good that they have to.

City Planner David Hildebrand told the Commission that two declarations of blight have been passed against the properties to be discussed.

“The commission has seen these in the past,” he said. “The last time we did one of these (with the) commission was probably six years ago.”

Terry Williams, director of codes, permits and recreation services, said that the Redevelopment Authority would be taking the next step with these properties. She proposed a strategic planning session with the BPRC, Commission and Redevelopment Authority to outline what each bodies role is and what the RDA’s plans are for these properties.

BPRC and Commission member Ray Pring said that they “haven’t had the opportunity to look at the inside” of the properties. “That’s unfortunately one of the limitations of the process.”

Three properties were presented to the Planning Commission for a certification of blight.

“What this is doing is moving this process along to the RDA to allow them to consider what their options are,” Williams said.

The first, 17 Conewango Ave., was hit by fire in August 2016. Williams said that the only work completed on the uninsured structure since was boarding up the windows and doors.

“It’s one of those difficult cases but it’s one of those cases that screams for action,” Pring said.

Williams said the owner has not provided the city with any type of plan outlining what he is able and willing to do regarding the structure.

The second is located at 202 Pennsylvania Ave. E.

Williams said the former restaurant is owned by an out-of-town “elderly gentleman not in the best of health. He does not communicate with the city.”

“We are mowing the lawn there,” she said, noting that $12,518.53 is owed in back taxes.

She said complaints have also been received as “part of the building fly off in wind storms.”

“There is some interest from the public in purchasing the property,” she added, though no one has successfully contacted the owner on that score.

The final property before the Commission was 11 1/2 Linwood St.

Williams said this property has “been through this process before. It does not appear that this can be rehabbed. There is a lot of damage due to weather issues. This is a property that has just been walked away from. (There is) no interest from the owners.”

“We’re going to be faced with a lot of situations like this in the next 10 to 15 years,” Commission member Pat Scutella said, noting the community’s aging residents and aging buildings.

Pring noted that when the BPRC a portfolio of over 40 properties was presented to it. He said a couple of themes emerged regarding the properties before the BPRC – fire or circumstances which resulted in immediate damage and other property owners who died and whose properties fell into disrepair over time.

“I still think we’re in better shape than a lot of communities,” he added.

Nelson credited the process the city has established.

“I think it’s great that the committee is meeting again,” he said.