Commissioner floats idea of task force to help redevelopment

Warren County’s blighted property process has come a long way since its inception in 2009.

But how could the process become more proactive?

Warren County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston has proposed an undertaking to find out.

He’s slugged it a “redevelopment task force – targeted to impact a few key areas: Blight, tax claim and housing.”

“The main issue going to be addressed,” Eggleston said, “is blight.”

He noted that since 2009 there has “been no major (revision) or renovation to that ordinance or the process itself.”

Eggleston said he has had conversations with members of the Blighted Property Review Committee, Planning Commission and Redevelopment Authority as well as with local realtors, members of the Economic Opportunities Council “about the blight process overall. All of them have independently voiced concerns about how that process is run, that we don’t do as much as we could do with the blight process” and that there “lots of things left on the table” and “opportunities lost.”

So his proposal is “to put a group together in order to discuss that top in a high level of detail (and) make recommendations to the commissioner’s office and county (to) make it more useful to the people in Warren County.”

Eggleston said that the other two areas addressed by this task force would be tax claim and housing.

“Currently, the county’s tax claim process is completely legal and justified,” he said, but noted that there are “a lot of things that could be done with tax claim that are not being done in order to better manage properties within the county.”

On housing, Eggleston said there has been a “continuous discussion with the EOC and other entities involved with housing and he proposes that the task force “analyze the housing situation, how to more effectively utilize housing.”

“It’s apparent to me… Warren County has had traditionally, a hands off view of property,” Eggleston argued, noting there have been “lots of different situations” where properties were available or were in transition and the county’s approach has resulted in the property being “taken by a developer or someone who doesn’t want anything to do with the property.

“The goal is to come up with recommendations to help the county be more proactive in handling property,” he continued. “We have properties that are perpetually in blight or going through the tax claim process. The other bottom line issue is we have a population decline – employment and income – naturally (that is) going to create a distressed market (and) challenges to property maintenance.”

While the final makeup of the task force isn’t settled, Eggleston said representatives from the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry, the BPRC, the RDA, City of Warren personnel, county Planning & Zoning and municipal officials have agreed to serve on what Eggleston expects to be an 11-member task force.

“The goal is to have the group start up in January,” he said, expecting them to function for four months.