Mayor opposed to council plan for blight authority - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Mayor opposed to council plan for blight authority

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Blight is a hot topic of conversation in Toledo these days, especially among city officials.

Mayor D. Michael Collins has issued his response to council members who are looking to create a new group to focus on the problem.

Toledo City Councilman Jack Ford announced Monday that he and some other council members will push for a blight authority to move the trash, cut the grass and demolish or fix the abandoned homes. 

Mayor Collins responded in a statement by saying "at this time creating an additional governmental arm is unnecessary. It would also create additional funding challenges. We face dealing with years of neglect in some neighborhoods, we have a plan in place and we are moving forward."

Ford says he has support of others on council and hopes to have the blight authority in place within the next few weeks.

Read Mayor Collins's full statement below:

Defining our City as "Ugly Toledo" merits the same reaction as when the work of EconCat88 was a media focus, as well as the response many of us had when Toledo was included on Forbes "Most Miserable City" stories.  Labeling our city as "Ugly Toledo" may be headline grabbing, but it creates a false perception.  Several selected quotes from The Blade are included at the end of this statement that demonstrates this point. 

Toledo has homes that are blighted, as does other urban cities.  When asked about this by The Blade for their investigative report, the City's ability to act when it comes to nuisance properties is often times delayed or prevented by the Toledo Municipal Court.  These cases are under the control of the Housing Court which is adjudicated by Judge Allan C. McConnell.  Cases have lingered for years with the City unable to force demolition.  More than 500 affidavits have been filed in Toledo Municipal Court by our Code Enforcement Department in the past 12 months.  

"The constituent driven complaint system is going to be maintained and will be in an even easier format when SeeClickFix is released later this summer," said Mayor D. Michael Collins.  "This application will allow complaints to be done from a smart phone, iPhone or computer.  In addition to making the complaint process easier for citizens, we have already begun pairing Police Community Service Officers with Code Enforcement/Nuisance inspectors who are assigned to a specific City area.  As I have publicly stated even prior to taking office, this will allow areas that need attention, that are not being reported by residents of neighborhoods to be addressed."

"At this time, creating an additional governmental arm is unnecessary," he stated.  "It would also create additional funding challenges.  We face dealing with years of neglect in some neighborhoods, we have a plan in place and we are moving forward.  These efforts along with our version of the Tidy Towns concept, T-Towns, will create an improved value added to our community." 

As part of the discussion concerning how we address blight, the role of the Housing Court must be a part of it, as well as the Lucas County Treasurer's office.  At times a house that has taken years to get through the court system, ready for demolition has been sold at a Sheriff's sale, creating the whole nuisance complaint process to start anew.

One example is 4602 Suder, Code Enforcement cited the property as a nuisance, it went through the Housing Court, approval was finally given for demolition, funding from the Land Bank was going to be utilized and then, the property was sold at a Sheriff's auction on 8/23/2013.  The nuisance complaint process had to start all over again.  Reportedly this past May a demolition permit was requested by the new property owner. 

Some nuisance property owners quit claim properties to family members, friends or LLC's to avoid court action.  A breakdown in communication from Lucas County to the City as it relates to changes in deed holder information creates an additional delay.  When a nuisance property owner changes the deed, Code Enforcement must start all over again and having correct contact information concerning the new owners is a must. 

On May 23, 2014 Land Bank held a press conference announcing the end of the first phase of Moving Ohio Forward program.  In two years, 838 structures were demolished with $6,755,002 spent.  746 of those structures were City of Toledo demolition projects.  More houses have been taken down in the past two years than ever before. 

While 600 more properties are slated for demolition, we have to do more than tear down.  One of the major problems is scrapping, vacant homes are targeted which creates a scenario where thousands of dollars worth of damage can happen in minutes.   "As part of my mayoral platform, I pledged to create a Nuisance Task Force; this has been done and one of the first areas that is being focused on is how to reduce damage to vacant properties by scrappers," said Mayor Collins. 

We welcome discussion as to how to increase community involvement in reducing blight and encourage focusing on the properties that can be quickly transitioned from nuisance to value added. 

Great things are happening in our community; this past week alone there were three groundbreakings.  Allowing the negative to overshadow the positive diminishes our economic potential. 

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