Laws on dilapidated buildings in need of upkeep

An editorial from The Dominion Post 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The time to raze the roof on eyesores is long overdue.

By most estimates, the number of abandoned structures that mar our local and state streetscapes and landscapes continues to multiply.

Maybe forms and lengthy procedures are not really much of a match for slums and blight, anyhow. And it’s certainly not as if communities and counties don’t realize there’s a problem.

Just this week, Westover’s City Council took its first action toward tearing down and cleaning up abandoned and dilapidated houses. The city’s attorney outlined a three-step process that would allow the city to move against derelict property owners.

Elsewhere, the city of Parkersburg, also this week, announced a new registry and deadlines for vacant properties. Buildings that have been vacant at least 45 days, are in violation of codes and don’t have active utility service are required to register.

Owners will face a $100-a-month fee for buildings that remain vacant a year after they are registered.

Our newspaper reported this year that no town in Preston County has ever completed the condemnation process and recouped the costs.

In Monongalia County, one such development — six buildings —off Mileground Road was abandoned almost from the outset, in September 2008.

Though the county and neighbors have attempted to take action against this eyesore, it appears both have just accepted this harsh reality.

Once upon a time, communities took part in house raisings for victims of fire, young families and the like. Some religious orders and social service agencies still perform this most neighborly of acts.

But today, some property owners have abandoned any spirit of community and allow dilapidated structures to literally rot along our streets and roads.

It’s apparent that laws and agencies that are supposed to address this issue are inadequate, at best. Not to mention, funding to raze these buildings or force owners into compliance through the courts is seriously lacking.

Legislators need to revisit the state’s laws on abandoned and dilapidated structures and put some fangs in them. Not only speed up this process by shortening deadlines and curbing appeals, but also dedicate a revenue source to help counties and muncipalities to raze such sites.

Every citizen of any community and this state has a stake in this issue. How so?

That’s an easy one: Quality of life, property values and negating potential investment in areas matter to everyone.

There are already laws on the books that raise this issue of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. But it’s apparent they are in serious need of some upkeep, too.

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