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City focuses on empty structures

February 4, 2014
By DAVE GOSSETT - Special to the Herald-Star ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - The city's planning and zoning commission was asked Monday night to review proposed legislation that will require owners of vacant buildings to inform city officials of future plans for the properties.

The ordinance first was introduced at a City Council planning committee meeting.

"One of our biggest issues are abandoned houses or foreclosed properties. Most landlords are responding to our notices. But in many cases property owners have simply walked away from the house or building. In other cases a bank has foreclosed on the property but will not register the deed in their name. So we aren't always sure who actually owns a vacant building," explained Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi.

Petrossi also asked the planning commission members to review a second proposed ordinance, "that will allow residents to petition the city to limit the number of rental properties in their geographical area."

"There are similar ordinances already in effect in Oxford, Ohio, and East Lansing, Mich. I would like the planning commission to review the proposed ordinances and we can have an intelligent conversation at our March meeting," added Petrossi.

According to Petrossi, "there have been 931 property maintenance code violations filed since 2008. It looks like the numbers are declining but I don't believe they are. One of our biggest problems are homeowners on a fixed income or the homeowners who don't have the finances to do the work."

City resident Fred Walsh applauded the planning commission and City Council members in attendance stating, "it's time we take our city back."

"The people who aren't here tonight don't live in the neighborhood we live in. Someone has to take leadership in this town," noted Walsh.

"The council has come up with several ideas and we are committed to finding the money to give Chris Petrossi the staff he needs. We are going to try to be real aggressive in property maintenance," responded 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson.

"Citizens will be willing to help but we need leadership now," added commission Chairman Bill Hendricks.

In other matters Monday night, the planning commission agreed to request that City Council approve legislation to demolish 17 dilapidated properties in the city using Community Development Block Grant funds.

"The administration is looking if additional funding outside of the CDBG funds are available. Additional funds for more demolitions is under consideration at this time," remarked City Manager Tim Boland.

"When our new city manager gets to ride around the city and look at some of the houses, maybe he will understand why nothing is being done. Good citizens are starting to question what is going on here. Visitors to our town see these houses that have been dilapidated for years. The accountability issue has to be addressed," commented city resident Rick Yanch.

Yanch also called for city officials to invite landlords and business owners to attend future meetings to be a part of the solution.

The planning commission also agreed to request that City Council introduce legislation to advertise for bids for the CDBG-funded paving project for this year that will include Woodlawn Road from Ridge Avenue to Oregon Avenue.

Petrossi reported a $1 million Clean Ohio Assistance Fund at the former RG Steel Steubenville plant is now approximately 90 percent complete.

And Petrossi said the first of three public hearings on the city's 2014 CDBG one-year action plan will be held at 7 p.m. on March 3.

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