COMMENTARY: Blight, a few bad apples and complex challenges

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Where is the house? This GIS photo shows the back view of a home at 321 South Jones Street, Cambridge City, prior to overgrowth which now camouflages the entire house. The second picture reveals a current street view of the front. An open front door left the home vulnerable to animals, the elements, and vagrancy for several weeks. Supplied

Wayne County is a beautiful place with many cultural and natural assets, beautiful large historic homes, successful businesses, a great location in the Tri-State area about one hour’s drive from Dayton, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and close proximity to a major interstate.
But Wayne County shares a problem with most other communities – blighted properties. The reasons for blight are many – apathy, out-of-state landlords looking for a tax write-off lacking any community connection or pride, irresponsible landlords, and more. Some properties are vacant and unattended for years, deteriorating inside and out as time marches on.
Blight impacts the property value for neighbors and can create safety issues in the community. Wayne County is not unique in having blighted properties – the issue needs constant attention.
The Western Wayne News team has talked about this topic for months and is committing to examining the issue closer – explaining the dilemma for the county, cities and towns trying to do something about it. We hope to explain the complexities in dealing with blight and what local government and community members have done to improve the situation, to-date. What more can and should be done?
There are also various definitions of blight – trash on property, overgrown bushes and shrubs, overgrown lawns, unsafe structures, and more.
The death of a property owner may result in a vacant and blighted property; loan default is often involved; sometimes the resident is physically unable to take care of the property and lacks resources to hire someone to do the work, and sometimes property owners are taking advantage of people who may not be able to get a conventional loan, leaving them and the property in a dire situation.
We have researched the businesses behind out-of-state LLCs and Corporations buying Wayne County property; and in some cases, this has been eye-opening.
No one should be able to dictate what a property owner does with their own property, in accordance with local ordinances and zoning laws , but oftentimes personal property rights infringe on the rights of property owners around it. In this case, does the property owners right supersede the rights of neighbors whose own property value is diminished as a result? This is the ultimate question.
Blight, and the stories behind blighted properties are what we hope to highlight in weeks to come. We will talk to city and municipal governments tackling the issue to understand the challenges they face in tackling blight. Some local governments have, or are in the process of ramping up efforts to tackle it.
We encourage Wayne County residents to submit your questions, as well. Please send them to customerservice@hmgccity.com. This will be an ongoing series and we look forward to the community coming together to make a difference in blighted business and residential properties in Wayne County. Everyone must do their part to maintain and continuously improve our collective home, and those at the heart of the problem should be held accountable.

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