WILMINGTON — Going forward, the county can take enforcement action on blighted properties, whether those properties are tax delinquent or not.
On Wednesday the Clinton County commissioners voted 3-0 to add a “Blighted Properties” section to the county’s Zoning Resolution.
Like the zoning resolution itself, the new section applies to the unincorporated areas of the county. That means it does not include Wilmington or the incorporated villages, but it does apply to the 13 townships except for Washington and Clark Townships, which don’t have zoning.
The new section deals with junk, weeds, rubbish, structural soundness and general maintenance. It will go into effect 30 days after passage.
There are township trustees who were waiting for the zoning amendment to pass so they could afterward submit written complaints with the Clinton County Building and Zoning Department, said Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Justin Dickman, who is assigned to handle local blight cases.
Prior to the adoption of the “Blighted Properties” section, the county could only address blighted properties that were also tax-delinquent, said Clinton County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Taylor Stuckert.
“This unlocks a whole new set of properties we couldn’t touch before,” Stuckert told commissioners.
Among other things, the new section states: “No junk shall be openly stored or kept in the open.” Junk includes any motor vehicles, machinery, appliances, or products with parts missing, or scrap metals or other trash, rubbish, refuse, or scrap materials that are damaged or deteriorated that is not in a completely enclosed building.
Another passage states a junk vehicle shall not be kept in storage unless it’s within a completely enclosed building, a garage or the view from a public road is completely obstructed by a fence.
Under the category of structural soundness and general maintenance, the new section reads that buildings shall be free from any defect which makes the use of the structure or premises a public nuisance as defined by the Ohio Revised Code.
The enforcement procedure involves a written complaint from a member of the community that’s submitted to the county’s Building and Zoning Department, which then looks into the conditions of the property. If a violation is found, a notice is sent to the owner, who is advised that the premises are to be remedied within 30 days.
If the violation is not corrected by that time, a local government jurisdiction will see that it gets done and the costs will be assessed on the property taxes of the premises.
But the hope is that the person in control of the property will remedy the situation on their own in a timely manner after getting the notice, said Dickman.
The new regulations are not intended to involve farming operations, said Stuckert.
Stuckert said local officials understand there will be farm implements outside or weeds on agricultural properties that are not impacting the general public or neighbors.
The “Blighted Properties” section, said Stuckert, is primarily focused on issues that have a clear adverse effect on neighboring properties or the public at large.
Any community member, including elected officials, can write and submit the written complaint that starts the enforcement process.
Clinton County Building & Zoning Manager Walt Daniel said the new regulations will put some teeth into the local effort to remove blight. He also thinks there will be some pushback from people.
A copy of the amended Clinton County Zoning Resolution, including the “Article 10 Blighted Properties” section, is expected to soon be placed on the Clinton County Building and Zoning Department’s web page.
The changes to the Zoning Resolution were reviewed and approved by the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission and the local Rural Zoning Commission, and was recommended to the county commissioners.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.