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Blight appeal successful for Jackson Run Road property

A Conewango Township property owner has successfully appealed a blight designation against his Jackson Run Road property.

The county’s Redevelopment Authority heard the appeal by Gregory Burkett on Tuesday regarding the property at 3640 Jackson Run Road.

“We are opposed to this granting an appeal to Mr. Burkett,” Jeff Zariczny, Conewango township supervisor, said. “In our opinion it’s definitely blighted.”

He argued to the RDA that the property meets six specific blight criteria.

“We have been trying to deal with Mr. Burkett for three or four years,” he said. “He’s going to do nothing with this particular property. It’s going to continue to be a problem for the community. (We) believe Mr. Burkett has a responsibility to the community as a property owner.”

RDA chair Phil Gilbert asked what conditions make this an issue and what would need to be taken care of.

“The house is uninhabitable currently,” Zariczny said, also citing debris and mowing issues. “The condition of the structure itself is suspect,” he added, noting there are holes in the floor. “Those are some of the things we’ve been concerned about.”

“It sounds like you don’t have a specific item you’re speaking about,” Gilbert said, focused on the exterior.

Burkett told the RDA that he is using the property for storage. He acknowledged that the floor in one bedroom collapsed but then went through the specific blight criteria arguing that it doesn’t meet conditions.

Blight also generally focuses on the exterior conditions of a property.

The majority of the debate centered not on issues of blight but on the relationship and interactions between Burkett and township officials.

Burkett told the board that he bought the property at judicial tax sale and outlined rehabilitation efforts he has undertaken.

He said that he stopped renovating the property “since this harassment started.”

“You need to maintain your property,” RDA member Joe Whipp said. “You need to maintain your property. If you show that you are taking care of the property, you would be getting less harassment.”

Zariczny acknowledged that the township tried to resolve the issue without taking nuisance issues to the magistrate.

“Maybe we erred with this one,” he said.

The RDA ultimately approved a motion stating that the property is not blighted at this time, while requiring Burkett to maintain and secure the property.

RDA member Jeff Labesky said photos presented Tuesday “didn’t give me any indication that the property was blighted.

“The property over the last few years probably could have been fined numerous times,” he added, suggesting to the township that enforcing nuisance regulations rather than going to the blight process first might result in better outcomes.

“I think the outside could use some cleaning up,” Gilbert added. “(That) would go a long way with the township.”

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