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Fate of abandoned houses topic of meeting

July 17, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission wants to crack down on abandoned, dilapidated houses in the county.

Under a new state law, county commissions can adopt an ordinance to deal with dilapidated houses, piles of refuse and debris, and toxic seepage and spillage, said County Commission President R. Gregory Lance.

The commission could create an "enforcement agency" that would investigate complaints about properties that were potential health hazards to their neighbors, Lance said.

County officials will present the proposed ordinance to the public at an informational meeting on Aug. 6 at the County Commission meeting.

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The agency would be made up of a fire chief, the sheriff, the county engineer and two members of the general public, Lance said.

The commission would be able to order cleanup, repairs or demolition of the properties, Lance said.

If the work were not performed by the property's owner, then the county could hire contractors to do the work and then file a lawsuit in Circuit Court to put a lien on the property to cover the costs of the labor, Lance said.

"We've had a couple of instances in the past where there has been complaints about properties," said County Commissioner James Knode. "We've not been able to do anything about them."

The commission would sit as a "quasi-judicial" panel to hold hearings about alleged health hazards, in which property owners and the enforcement agency would be allowed to present their cases, according to the proposed ordinance.

Both sides would be able to appeal the commission's decision to the Circuit Court.

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