Run-down buildings draw ire

June 22, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Charles Town has made great strides in the appearance of the city with a $7.1 million revitalization, but remaining problems include dilapidated properties where garbage collects, pigeons congregate, buildings deteriorate and grass grows knee high, residents said Monday night.

A group of local residents complained to the Charles Town City Council about run-down properties in the city and asked that something be done about the situation.

City council members heard similar comments at a recent council meeting and Mayor Randy Hilton decided to hold a public hearing Monday night to get input on the issue, City Council member Randy Breeden said.


Residents complained about unsightly properties with porches that are falling apart, pigeons flying in and out and broken-down cars and other debris collecting.

Joyce Rhyne, of 320 E. Washington St., said she told city officials three years ago about a property about which she was concerned. Now it is in worse condition, she said.

Rhyne complained about garbage that collects at a house near her home and a yard behind her where the "grass is up to my knees."

Jim Tolbert recounted his recent observations: a pile of roofing debris on a street, parts of trees down on Ann Street and high weeds around town.

"Does the city have a lawnmower? It just seems like nobody cares," Tolbert said.

Council member Matt Ward sympathized with residents, saying something as isolated as one broken window can have an effect on a community if it is not addressed.

People looking at the broken window may feel that they don't have to fix up their properties or that it is OK to drink a beer on a public street, Ward said.

"It leads to an undoing of a community. We have a lot of broken windows," Ward said.

City Building Inspector Scott Coyle sat in the audience during Monday's meeting but did not comment. He declined to comment after the meeting.

Ward said he wants feedback from city staff, such as how many corrective actions the city has taken on dilapidated housing, how many fines have been issued and how many citizen complaints have been addressed.

Hilton said residents brought up some serious issues.

The council decided that Coyle and City Manager Jane Arnett will respond to concerns brought up by residents. Those responses would be distributed to council members who will hand them out to residents in their wards.

Breeden agreed that dilapidated housing is a problem, but said he wants to make sure that any action taken is done in a fair manner.

Breeden said that while the issue of dilapidated properties falls under the responsibility of the building inspector, it is not the only duty Coyle has.

Breeden said Coyle often is held up in the office by people who come in and ask questions about permits, zoning regulations and distance set-back requirements for new buildings.

In an e-mail he sent to some city residents, Ward said rundown housing is the most nagging problem facing Charles Town. Ward said the city has identified 38 vacant out-of-code properties for enforcement action.

The problems include a building code inspector who is not getting results and a city that is not committed to requiring results from a code inspection program, Ward said in his e-mail.

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