News and Sentinel: In Parkersburg, Abandoned Buildings Registry Leads to Spike in Demolitions

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By Evan Bevins/Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG — About 400 houses that have sat empty for more than a year and are in violation of building codes are now on the City of Parkersburg’s vacant property registry.

Several more that could have been registered were taken down by their owners, at least some in an effort to avoid the registry’s $100-a-month fee.

Between July 2015 and July 2016, 31 structures were torn down by owners, about 21 of which would have qualified for the registry, said Gary Moss, city code director.

“That’s more houses than we usually get torn down by individuals in one year,” said Moss.

The potential charge might encourage some owners to take action and fix up or raze long-term eyesores.

And that saves the city the cost of tearing the structures down itself, Mayor Jimmy Colombo said.

“That means we don’t have to use our money,” he said.

The registry was approved by Parkersburg City Council in 2014 as part of a proposed initiative to reduce slum and blight. The rationale was twofold: The monthly fee would help reimburse the city for the cost of maintaining dilapidated properties, and the potential charge might encourage some owners to take action and fix up or raze long-term eyesores.

Two of the houses owners took down themselves were on a list prepared by the code department of structures targeted for demolition using a pair of $250,000 loans from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. The city has three years to pay back the first loan, but the stated goal is to pay it off by May 6, 2017, before a 3 percent interest rate kicks in for the third year, city Finance Director Eric Jiles said…

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