Dealing With Neglect
Welcome to Wheeling?
Vacant, abandoned, and neglected residential and commercial property is prevalent throughout our city. Some of this property is owned by developers who are able to pick the structures up for pennies on the dollar. The developers see a potential of turning a profit by developing the property sometime in the foreseeable future or selling them at a profit.
Other properties are bought up by individuals and corporations, to be used as rental property. Nothing wrong with any of that. However, here’s where the “rub” comes in: All of the properties mentioned above are cheap investments that the owners don’t want to put any money into, whether standing empty or being rented out to those who cannot afford high rents. Those who own these properties have no incentive to fix them up or tear them down. Recognizing that a lack of occupancy of these buildings causes deterioration leading to health, fire, and safety issues, and in an effort to encourage occupancy or demolition of these buildings, the city of Wheeling enacted City Ordinance No. 1718, titled “Vacant Structure Code,” on July 21, 2009. This ordinance requires a yearly registration fee for vacant properties, and is viewed as an incentive to either re-hab them or tear them down.
Council should go a step further and allocate all vacant property fines and registration fees to a dedicated “demolition” fund. The “Vacant Property” list provided by the city solicitor confirms that not everyone is registering their vacant property. In fact, the list shows 672 vacant structures when the number is, in my opinion, substantially higher.
We can’t even get a fire-damaged, uninhabitable eyesore, that can be viewed by travelers on I-70, torn down. That structure remains standing (barely).
Here’s some interesting information: The owner(s) of the property are city residents. Now, if that structure had fire insurance, I’m sure there was a designated amount identified for debris removal. Why hasn’t that property owner been forced to demolish the remains of that building? Where’s the money from the fire insurance? If it is in escrow, why hasn’t the owner used the money to supplement the cost for demolition?
The mayor and city council were so enthusiastic about the painting of a “welcome mural” on the side of a building for people to see entering Wheeling, but then they continue to ignore the welcome Wheeling impression of a burnt-out duplex at 105 & 107 S. Huron Street. What am I missing here? We need a change, and I hope that the voters have a good selection of candidates to choose from next May.
Hope springs eternal!