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Springfield demolishing blighted homes

3/7/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield officials are using grant funds to eliminate blighted and vacant homes in the township.

At the Feb. 28 Board of Trustees meeting, township officials added several more to the list of homes to be demolished, bringing the total slated for the wrecking ball to date to 27, according to Zoning Administrator Patricia Ryan.

She added Springfield has until Dec. 31 to use a little more than $381,000 in grant money, including $100,000 in a township match, awarded to the township from the Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program created by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to assist communities in their economic recovery by removing blighted or abandoned structures. More than $3.7 million was allocated to Summit County in July, some of which required matching funds.

In Springfield, officials identified about 225 homes for demolition under the program, and the funds will pay for about 30 to 35 of those homes, according to Ryan.

Trustee Bruce Killian said township officials have been working to take down blighted residential structures for more than a decade, but occupancy of these homes made the issue difficult. Since 2009, 61 homes have been demolished, according to Ryan.

Killian added that the increased number of foreclosures in the last four to five years also has increased the number of vacant and blighted homes, and their vacancy has made it easier for township officials to address the matter.

“The Moving Ohio Forward grants are a great opportunity to get rid of these substandard homes,” said Killian.

Trustee Dean Young stressed the effort to eliminate blighted homes is aimed at vacant homes and not at eviction.

“It is not our plan to put someone out of an occupied home,” he said. “We are endeavoring to improve the community to remove these structures.”

Ryan said the process to demolish vacant homes begins with an inspection of such structures by Summit County Public Health and/or the Summit County Building Department. Under certain conditions, the Building Department will declare the structure “unsafe” and Summit County Public Health will deem the structure “uninhabitable.”

Conditions that would constitute an “unsafe” structure include dilapidation or deterioration, fire hazards, being open to the weather, vermin infestation, unsanitary conditions, lack of utilities and voids in the structure’s foundation, roof or siding, according to Ryan.

If the property owner does not respond or present plans to address the identified unsafe conditions within 30 days, the property is condemned, and trustees proceed to nuisance abatement, which begins with a public hearing, including a 10-day notice of that meeting sent to the property owner, according to Ryan.

During that public hearing, the property owner can present his or her case to not demolish the home, and trustees use information from Summit County Public Health and the Building Department ruling to determine if the home can be saved. They also look to see if the home is substandard in lot and building size.

Ryan stated the demolition of the home starts 30 days afterward with an asbestos survey and remediation, if necessary.

“The property remains in the owner’s name throughout the whole process, and the abatement costs are placed as a lien against the property,” said Ryan. “Under the Move Ohio Forward Grant, 50 percent of the total costs are passed on to the owners as a tax lien.”

Township officials stated that while they work with property owners to make improvements, they also do not allow the homes to sit vacant for several years while that work is being done.

“The neighborhood deserves better,” said Young.

At the Feb. 28 trustees’ meeting, eight such homes came under review for demolition.

One included a property at 655 Junior Ave. A representative from Plymouth Tax Services said the property was purchased as an investment and some outside work had been done with the hope of selling it to someone who would make the inside fixes. The representative requested time to bring in a structural engineer to assess whether the home was worth saving before making further repairs.

Young responded the cosmetic changes done to date were not enough to halt the abatement process because the home could sit without improvements for some time before a buyer was found, and trustees voted to proceed with its demolition.

A home at 2445 Sadler St. was also slated for demolition, despite a request to save it. Young stated the 792-square-foot home that was partially below grade had been vacant for at least five to seven years, has considerable damage and was scheduled for razing once before, and trustees deemed it substandard and not worth saving.

Trustees agreed to give two weeks to the owner of 1447 Pin Oak Drive, which was purchased by a former resident who is now living in New Jersey and is trying to make repairs, to allow an inspection of the inside to determine if it is worth saving.

In other business, trustees approved:

  • a payment of $87,365 to the Ohio Township Association for Risk Management Authority for the 2013-14 renewal of the township’s property and liability insurance, with a credit of $5,696 to be received;
  • the purchase and installation of a Mitsubishi Computer Room Cooling Unit at an amount not to exceed $6,650;
  • an agreement with the Summit Soil and Water Conservation District for land-use planning and development of soil and water resources, at no cost to the township;
  • applications for the Coca-Cola/Keep America Beautiful Recycling Bin Grant and the 2013 Summit/Akron Solid Waste Management Authority for the Community Recycling Access Grant. The township earns money that is directed to parks programming from the recycling bins, with about $184 collected last month from the paper recycling bin; and
  • an application for the Gardeners Partner Grant for raised-bed gardens near Springfield Lake Park, with produce to go to the Boyd Esler Senior/Community Center.

Trustees also announced that applications for the position of director of parks and recreation programs are being accepted until March 15 at 4 p.m. The job description and application forms are available online at www.springfieldtownship.us.

Also, Summit County Councilwoman Paula Prentice (D-District 8) will provide updates on county issues March 12 at 4 p.m. at the Senior Center, located at 2491 Canfield Road.

The next regular Board of Trustees meeting will take place March 14 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, located at 2459 Canfield Road.

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