One year ago, I shared information from the West Virginia Municipal League. It was reported that as many as one in 16 properties in West Virginia is identified as vacant or abandoned.
The job market in our state over the last couple of decades has contributed to this problem. When families moved away for work, the situation robbed us of our people and robbed our communities of much of their value, as homes were abandoned and began to fall into disrepair. The result is dilapidated properties that reduce property values, create costly public safety hazards, and become an extra barrier to economic development.
Areas with neglected properties do not get better on their own. They only get worse and those same areas left unattended see increased crime and all that goes with that.
We can do better.
Neglected properties represent an opportunity for community revitalization and, hopefully, Marlinton is seeing some of that. We need to see more.
FACT: Neglected properties affect not only a property owner, but the surrounding property owners, and finally the entire community.
It is apparent that we will have to work together to address these neglected properties. In the last few years, communities have been coming up with innovative strategies to address neglected properties with promising results. We can learn from the failure of some and must learn from the success of others.
To date, much of the Marlinton cleanup has had to do with the “obvious and unsightly.” Mowing and trimming of grass is a season-long challenge for the Town crew as they tend to other duties. Then, when an employee quits, because, “he no longer wants to mow grass” – well, that brings up another story for another time.
Flowers on Main Street were the easy part.
Our Town extends beyond Main Street, and that is where many of the problems remain. It has been a slow process. I have heard the complaints from both sides. I knew the end goal would not happen overnight. But, we had to have a re-start.
A recent article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail indicated removal of abandoned and dilapidated buildings can take two years and more. Now, a newer law may shorten the process. Time will tell. We should be able to move more quickly than a larger city. But, not until an enforcement officer can be employed full-time.
For your information, the Marlinton Town Council held a special meeting August 28, for a third and final reading on The Building and Structures Ordinance. At this meeting, the MTC voted to re-enact the amended ordinance. Obviously, what has been – has not been working.
This ordinance, will move Marlinton “from nothing to something.”
Marlinton will begin with Rental Registration and Certificate of Occupancy inspections of “empty” (non-HUD) rental properties.
This is not intended to make it harder on tenants or landlords.
In the long-term, the plan is to restore personal responsibility and add value to our community.
Proof we are going in the right direction: