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Blight meeting spurs discussion on Sheffield properties

A discussion about two blighted properties in Sheffield Township spurred a much broader discussion about the future of that community.

The subject properties before the county’s Blighted Property Review Committee were 61 2nd Mill St. and 146 Saybrook Road. The 2nd Mill Street property has been before the committee before and was declared blighted by the township in May.

It’s in the county’s repository for delinquent taxes and officials believe the property to be beyond repair and functionally abandoned.

The other property was a “blue tarp roof,” according to Committee chair Paul Pascuzzi and was declared blighted in December by the township.

“Obviously they gave these folks plenty of time to get that work done,” he said.

“(The) garage is in better condition than the house,” Committee member Rick Brewster said.

That property owner was invited to the next meeting while the 2nd Mill St. property was moved forward in the process. Discussion then shifted to a list of the properties part of the blight process which shows Sheffield at the “top of the list,” Pascuzzi said. Phil Gilbert, the county’s tax claim director, said he maps where tax sale properties are located and sees “big sections” in the Sheffield area that are a “little scary.”

Pascuzzi said it’s the municipality’s role to show leadership and approach the state or county if help is needed. He noted that the township has seen a “completely new board” of township supervisors come on in the last three years.

“There’s a definite social and economic issue in that community,” he said. “(There is) not much you can do to stop it other than, one by one, start to address these blighted properties.”

He explained that addressing abandoned properties that pose a health and safety risk could allow the township “to hit the bottom and work itself up.”

“(The) fundamental problem is the business community there has declined over the last 30 to 40 years,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston, who sits on the committee, said.

As businesses leave “all of those people move out and properties become abandoned. … Everyone there is aware of the situation. They feel like there are a lot of challenges, a lot of concern. It’s going to take a lot to turn another direction.”

Brewster pointed out how much location matters as a Youngsville Borough councilman the borough now has to find a future for 1 E. Main St., a former commercial property that was deomolished but sits in a flood plain, compounding any future development.

“We’re going to have some difficulty finding someone who wants to acquire that property,” he said.

Pascuzzi cited the Planning Commission’s annual report shows that “where building is being done” is not in the Sheffield community.

“Sheffield has a lot of good things,” Eggleston said, with a “lot of good motivated people there, quality properties. A great place to live. I loved living there. I think you start there and work your way out.”

Eggleston said the county will be looking at the possibility of a landbank as well as grant funding for neighborhood assistance — roofs, facades, etc. — that could assist.

“There isn’t enough money to do all the stuff you’d like to do,” he cautioned.

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