Aldermen Receive Blight Committee Report

It contains 19 recommendations.

Frederick, Md. (KM)  The Frederick Board of Aldermen on Wednesday went over a report from the Blighted and Vacant Property Advisory Committee. The panel was formed late last year to review the issues connected with vacant and blighted commercial and residential properties, citizen complaints and encouragement from the Aldermen.

“They took very seriously the fact that even though the overall number of vacancy and blighted properties is small, there remains a role and a need for the city to take a leadership in trying to reduce those numbers and move them to occupancy,” says Richard Griffin, the Director of the city’s Department of Economic Development.

The report contains 19 recommendations, including more aggressive action against property owners when their buildings endanger the city’s health, safety and welfare. This follows when Notices of Violations and fines are not successful. If contractors have to be called in to do any repair work, the city could place a lien on the property to cover the cost.

Griffin said that’s already being done, but the committee felt there were opportunities to do much more.

“I absolutely agree that code enforcement needs to be more aggressive on those properties that are a problem,” says Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak. “I do not agree that Code Enforcement gets a complaint, and then go blanket the neighborhood with NOV’s {Notice of Violations} to bump up numbers.” She says that could lead to 80-year-old residents climbing lawn tractors to remove  tree branches  overhanging a sidewalk.

But Mayor Randy McClement said the city does not try to “bump up numbers.”For as many complaints we get on individuals over and over again, we get multiple complaints on individuals here, there and everywhere. We also get a lot of concerns on why Code Enforcement isn’t more pro-active,” he said.

Another recommendation called strong leadership from the City Administration in addressing blight, deterioration and vacancy in specific areas. Several Aldermen like the idea, but they didn’t just want words. “We don’t have the luxury of being able to say we’re going to do,” says Alderman Michael O’Connor. “I think the policy statement can’t be about words. I think, in many respects, that policy statement has to be about actions. They want to see that the commitment is demonstrated, not that there’s a commitment,” he said.

“Hopefully, part of the strong policy statement is the fact that we’re trying to move some of these things forward and we’re trying to do that,” said Alderwoman Kelly Russell. “Actions speak louder than words.”

Other recommendations call for enhancing the  outreach to property management companies, homeowners’ associations to correct these blighted and vacant property issues; developing targeted investment zones; designating a city employee to provide assistance to small and medium size projects planned for the downtown; and appointing an ongoing “Blighted and Vacant Property Committee.”

Mayor McClement says he will review these recommendations and determine which ones can be implemented very quickly, and which will require more time.