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Abandoned homes becoming problem

Alex Green • Feb 25, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Owning a home is still part of the ‘American Dream’.

Unfortunately, dreams sometimes end abruptly.


A noticeable collection of abandoned and vacant houses can be spotted throughout Ottawa County for a variety of reasons.


Government officials have mixed feelings about the issue but collectively do not view it as a dire problem.


“I don’t know if I’d call it a problem,” said Tracy Buhrow, Ottawa County building inspection chief. “Sometimes someone moves out, all of a sudden there’s garbage left, the land is (not maintained).”


Danbury Township Zoning and Planning Administrator Kathryn Dale has stronger feelings. She said two township properties were demolished last year, but she still would like to see about a dozen other properties get blown to dust. “They’re in very visible areas,” Dale said. “They can really be an eyesore.”


Members of Ottawa Residential Services have a message for Dale, and any other township or city official, even county residents who are sick of looking at a particular dilapidated home — bring it to their attention.


The group receives funding the Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Program.


The program was started in 2012 in an effort to get rid of an estimated 100,000 properties statewide in need of immediate demolition.


About $75 million was made available then by the state.


Ottawa Residential Services will be able to use some of that money to demolish local buildings up until May 31.


“I would encourage people (to bring blighted properties to our attention),” said Stephanie Lowe, executive director of Ottawa Residential Services.


The group, in tandem with the Attorney General’s program, helped to demolish 23 homes in 2013.


They have a short window to squeeze in a few more demolitions if they are made aware of the property, and if the property is eligible.


The building has to be residential and it had to have been visibly vacant for at least 90 days. Also, the owner of the property must give his or her consent.


“We’ve been lucky,” Lowe said, since every owner thus far has agreed to demolishing the property. In addition, the building needs to be inspected prior to its demolition, which is where Buhrow and his staff come in.


The building inspection department studies the structure during two inspections. They check to see if anything unusual exists within it — perhaps a basement with specific needs for it to be blown up. Asbestos is also commonly found in such residences. Getting rid of it can tack on about $8,000 to the Attorney General’s bill, Lowe said.


Dale said the program has been effective by showing immediate results.


Buildings at every corner of the county have been demolished as part of the program, Lowe said.


Ottawa Residential Services works to provide affordable and accessible housing options for all people, particularly disabled individuals.

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