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City moves to reactivate blight process

The City of Warren aims to bring its blighted property process back online next month.

The program had been dormant for several years before it was reconstituted a couple years ago.

The pandemic — and staffing reductions in the city’s Codes Department that the city says was COVID-19-related — pumped the brakes on the fight against blight again.

However, the Blighted Property Review Committee aims to hold a meeting next month.

City Manager Nancy Freenock called blight issues a “significant problem in the city,” specifically highlighting the lack of consequences that can come from a property owner just abandoning a property.

“The law is not in our favor,” she said, noting it would take action by the legislature to hold people accountable in this area.

She said council will be presented with a vacancy registration ordinance at a future meeting that would require owners to put funds into a deposit with the city for vacant properties so the city isn’t on the hook for covering the cost of grass cutting and snow removal.

She called it “one way to help fight blight” and hopes council will approve the ordinance in the next couple months.

Officials were generally pleased with how the blighted process was working prior to the staffing changes though concern was expressed about whether a queue of blighted properties were being formally acted on without the funds to address the issues.

Jessica Bee, the city’s code officials, noted, though, that she has a list of properties that — without some action — will eventually be “so far gone” that they can’t be salvaged.

Freenock highlighted that 40 percent of the residences in the city are rental units and said that requiring registration for rental properties is a possibility. However, that’s not a possibility that prior councils were open to.

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