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Town steps up effort to overcome blight

SoVaNow.com / May 01, 2019
Clarksville is taking on the task of ridding itself of blighted structures that visitors see whenever they come to the area.

According to Town Manager Jeff Jones, blighted and abandoned properties have a negative effect on surrounding property values, not only harming adjacent landowners but also reducing local property tax revenue. Blight can also be a danger to the public and lead to an increase in crime.

While discussing the issue with members of Town Council at their Monday night meeting, Jones further noted that blight is a financial drain on community resources, and shifts the cost of fixing the problem to all taxpayers.

Jones announced that town staff will step up its efforts to ensure that structures that violate town ordinances for private property maintenance are dealt with.

These ordinances were put in place many years ago to help insure that the Town remains safe, attractive and a healthy place for residents and visitors.

He said the first step in this enhanced effort is to educate building owners on the town’s requirements and expectations. These are set out in Section 50.01 of the Town Code and call for owners of vacant properties to keep them “property maintained so as not to be unsightly, unsanitary, unhealthy, or a danger to any other citizen or nearby structure.”

This provision applies to buildings that are collapsing, have roofs that have caved in, or are marked by trash and debris or the remnants of a prior business operation.

Section 50.01 also makes it “unlawful for any person to deposit or abandon garbage refuse, debris, dead animals or fish or other waste materials on the property of another or store, deposit or abandon junked or derelict motor vehicles, boats, trailers and the like on their property or the property of another.” That same section holds that owners of vacant property are responsible for controlling weeds and brush on their property to insure the property does not become a breeding ground for rodents, a health hazard or unsightly.

While it should go without saying, Jones said, the ordinance also prohibits pet owners from allowing their animals “to defecate on or otherwise create a nuisance on or destroy or damage the property of others,” and it further requires property owners to prevent “dirt, mud, clay, sand, coal, gravel, crushed stone, litter, refuse, lawn debris or sewage waste to be spilled, dumped, stored or washed upon any public streets, alleyways, sidewalks or property of another.”

Anyone who violates these provisions can be charged with a misdemeanor, or they can be ordered to repair or remove condemned buildings by health or building officials. The repair or removal work will be done at the expense of the owner.

Jones said anyone with questions about their property or the Town ordinances can review the language at http://www.clarksvilleva.org/government/clarksville-va-code-ordinance or call the town at (434) 374-8177.

In other business, Council members agreed to support a proposal to install metal baskets containing flowers to the light poles on Virginia Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets as long as the baskets, materials and maintenance are paid for by the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking on behalf of the Chamber, Linda Davenport explained that the baskets will be planted by members, with blooming annuals remaining in place from May through September. They will be hung on light poles six feet from the ground, between the existing flags so as not to compete or compromise the flags.

She called this first year, “a trial period to discover the feasibility of expanding coverage and the overall impact it will have on making Clarksville more attractive.”

The Chamber has already raised the money needed to purchase the baskets, liners, plants, a 300-gallon watering tank, a pump and battery and part of the money needed to pay someone to water the planters.

Davenport had asked Council to authorize the use of town personnel to water the plants every couple of days and allocate $1,100 to cover the cost of paying these workers since watering will take place outside normal business hours. Council rejected this request.

Residents living on Rose Hill near the intersection of Third Street asked town officials for help in stopping a wayward motorist who races his vehicle down Third Street and around the corner onto Rose Hill nearly every night around 10 p.m. Police Chief Ricky Wilkinson offered to station an officer with radar near the intersection to try and catch the driver.

Town Operations Manager Richard Elliott said repair work is complete on the library building. It had been flooding for some time during periods of heavy rains. Alex Thompson was hired to excavate around the building, install a French drain directing water flow into an existing drain connected to the Fine Arts Center, and regrade the property.

“We have had some heavy rain since then [the completion of the work] and the problem appears to be fixed,” Elliott noted.

Repaving work has been finished on Market Street and around the police station, but lack of manpower means the town may have to hire a contractor to complete repairs on Seventh Street.

Council agreed to continue its moral obligation to support the Lake Country Regional Airport as it pursues funding to demolish the western end of its existing runway and rehab the remaining runway and apron. Mike Denton, Chairman of the Lake Country Airport Commission, said his request to not seek any new or additional funding from Clarksville for its current projects.

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Comments

The blight exists because the Town staff has largely ignored issues within the Town. They simply need to do their jobs not just "step up its efforts to ensure that structures that violate town ordinances for private property maintenance are dealt with." By the Town's own admission "These ordinances were put in place many years ago" Well why have they been allowed to continue and worsen. Clarksville residents, businesses, and taxpayers pay these folks salaries and it's high time they doing something about the blight within the Town.

Comments

The first sentence of the comment from "Town Resident" says it all! The town of Lawrenceville should have done the same thing, but "that would take too long" (town council) and "I don't know unless someone tells me" (town manager).


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