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Linton To Crack Down On Blighted Properties

Last updated on Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(LINTON) - Revisions to Linton’s blighted property ordinances aren’t quite ready to be enacted yet, but could be considered at May’s City Council session.

Mark Stalcup, of the Greene County Daily World, reports that increased awareness has already led some citizens to clean up their land, even before the city puts what's expected to be tougher penalties in place.

Run-down homes and unkempt lawns will bring down warnings and penalties from the city, presently seeking to improve its public image and hold residents more accountable for their land.

"A lot of people take pride in their properties," said Mayor John Wilkes. "And then they get someone next door who does not take care of theirs at all."

Furthermore, landowners - not rental tenants - will be held accountable for unmown lawns and run-down property, city officials emphasized.

Soon those who won't keep their land up - whether local or long-distance, residential or absentee landlords - will face fines and penalties.

"At some point - and soon - we are going to inspect these properties, and we are going to levy fines," Wilkes said, adding the city may also eventually clean the land and bill the owners.

"Should those fines and fees not be paid, they'll go onto the property's tax bill," the mayor added.

City Attorney John Rowe has drafted proposed revisions to the property ordinances, and provided them to City Council members for feedback.

Councilwoman Linda Bedwell, a longtime foe of unkempt properties and run-down houses, was recruited by Wilkes to oversee efforts to clean up the city's blighted properties.

She admitted she's frustrated the changes can't be passed quicker.

"Lawns need mowed now," she said. "I'd really like to get this moving as soon as we can."

Bedwell's sometimes mowed the yards of abandoned homes or tracked down out-of-state companies who purchased properties at tax sales or foreclosed mortgages.
Additionally, Bedwell has lobbied for increased enforcement, including fines and fees, and strengthening of existing city ordinances which control blighted properties.

"I really think if you get into people's pocketbooks, then things will change," she said in February. "I'm just hoping we can get some ordinances with some teeth in them."

The mayor and Bedwell have already driven around the city investigating blighted properties. Bedwell's already pursuing at least two with some success, she said.

"I've asked a couple of people and called a couple of people," she said. "It just takes a little bit of effort. Not everyone's stepped up, but a few have."

Locating the property owners can prove problematic, city officials have emphasized.

"The hard thing is, some of these properties are owned by mortgage companies which are out of state," Wilkes said last month. "That can be tough."

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