Officials weigh extent of county blight

The Warren County Redevelopment Authority talked about several properties on Tuesday.

But that discussion was really just the avenue for a larger dialogue on how the RDA operates and how it can more effectively combat blight throughout the county.

The discussion kicked off with the property at 58 Bush Lane in Tidioute.

County Grants Administrator Lorri Dunlap said the property is “so far off the road” that she’s “not sure why it’s an issue.”

Authority member Pam Matve responded by noting that blight is an issue.

Limestone Township Secretary Irene Gorman said the property is a “disaster.”

“It’s not livable,” she said. “We’ve tried everything with” the owners. “They won’t communicate with us or anything.”

Authority member Joe Scully asked if the township could tear the property down and put a lien on the property to cover the cost. Matve said “not without permission from the owner.”

Dunlap said she’s ben communicating with a grant manager at DCED who “alluded to” municipalities sending “due diligence notices to property owners” and tearing the property down if they don’t get a response.

“He believes but if he can provide law,” Matve said, “that states they can do that, that would be nice; but I don’t feel comfortable telling the municipalities they have the authority to do that.”

Dunlap said it “would be the RDA’s authority.”

Dunlap said the RDA doesn’t “have to take ownership of anything” and can demolish with the permission of the owner. “We don’t want to really own anything.”

“That is one of the things we are working with the solicitor” to review, Matve said. “Agreements where the property owner can sign. We have him looking at the legality of it. Without owning it, we can take care of the blight.”

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said that review has not “come up with a definitive answer.”

The RDA discussed purchasing 4582 Rt. 6 in Sheffield and Eggleston said Act 13 funds could be used to demolish that property in addition to 3 Economy St. and 268 Main St. in Tidioute.

Eggleston said he recently attended a Sheffield Township supervisors meeting and said “they were irate about blight. They have major problems with it (and are) trying to solve some of these problems and condense the time it takes.”

“The better we can do that the better we’ll affect the problem,” he said, emphasizing the need to be “strategic” on the properties the RDA addresses as well as partner with the county’s municipalities. “It’s obvious we can’t do it ourselves. They can’t do it by their selves.”

Dunlap suggested the properties targeted should be “centered on the public eye” not ones “down on the creek” that are “not hurting anybody.” She suggested that the county needs to be the “objective force” in the process.