Derelict buildings are marring our cities
Our view: Press property owners to make needed repairs
There have been positive signs that the economy is rebounding from what some call the “Great Recession,” which started nearly a decade ago with a crash in the housing market, high employment and out-of-control fuel prices.
Unemployment is down, the inflation rate is minimal, fuel prices are down, and construction has been robust in the area.
But we’re still dealing with the after-effects of that recession. In every town, there are boarded-up houses and businesses and vacant, weedy lots.
And it is costing taxpayers money to take care of them.
In Silver Lake, three Main Street buildings are barricaded off because of their disrepair and possible danger to the public.
Brownton has the same issue — recently, the roof caved in and the brick facade began falling off the old grocery store building on the city’s main business street.
The issue is not unique to small towns, although they are more visible there.
And it’s not just commercial buildings. Every town has homes that have been forclosed upon and are standing vacant, waiting for new owners. The cities are mowing lawns and shutting off water after pipes freeze and the basements. Cities are certifying the costs for these maintenance items to property taxes, hoping that some day they will be reimbursed when the buildings are sold.
Back to the commercial properties.
In Silver Lake, the city has opted to buy the buildings in question and have them demolished, freeing up new retail space on Main Street.
Brownton has taken a different approach — the city is pursuing legal action again property owners with orders to repair and possible criminal charges.
Neither approach is wrong, nor are the especially right. The city of Brownton is paying legal fees, and the city needs to weigh whether a legal fight is worth it, or if the money would be better spent in buying the buildings and tearing them down.
Frankly, we feel that Brownton is right in pursuing legal action. At some point, property owners need to be held responsible for their property. Simply walking away from a property when it no longer suits your purposes is wrong. It puts the burden on others to clean up the mess. Pursuing legal avenues sends a message that abandoning property is not an acceptable solution.
The true solution is simple: take care of what you own. Be responsible.
Unfortunately, the solution is not reality. Hopefully, our communities can find ways to deal with these issues with minimal impact to their constituents. Most taxpayers would rather see their dollars go toward the benefit of their community, rather than cleaning up the mess someone else left behind.