WILMINGTON — Plans call for removing a stumbling block that may stand in the way of some blight cleanup in Clinton County.
Blight and other major building-and-zoning noncompliance issues form the focus for the first phase of a new program called Clean Up Clinton County. Because residents sometimes fear retaliation from an owner of a blighted property, Clinton County commissioners are asking that the current requirement of a written complaint that identifies the complainant be dropped.
Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods said people tell her they’re not going to do something that involves naming themselves as the one lodging the complaint.
Moreover, those residents tell her they shouldn’t have to file a written complaint because anybody who drives by a property in question can see that it does not comply with zoning.
Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Richard “Rick” W. Moyer advised the county commissioners Monday that the way the current regulation reads to him is that if a resident is going to phone the Clinton County Building & Zoning Department to report a problem property, then that caller “better be willing to sign a written complaint” for it to hold up in court.
When asked whether dropping the requirement of a written complaint has negatives, Assistant Clinton County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Dickman said a possible downside would be if a citizen has a personal vendetta against someone and they make an anonymous complaint by “nitpicking at issues” just to make problems for the other person.
Clinton County Commissioners President Kerry R. Steed responded that a frivolous complaint wouldn’t end up in the prosecutor’s office because there is trained staff in the Building & Zoning Department to inspect and determine whether a property is blighted or non-compliant.
Moyer followed that up by saying if the alleged zoning violations aren’t there, then they’re not there to address.
McCarty said the Clean Up Clinton County initiative isn’t primarily meant to be punitive, and offers the property owner an opportunity to fix the issues.
“The bottom line is we’re just trying to get things cleaned up, so hopefully people do that themselves,” McCarty said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.