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We must fight blight in the borough

Posted 7/12/16

Synonyms for the word “blight” are scourge, bane, plague, menace, woeful, trouble and pest. 

Those words sum up the sentiments that have been recently shared with me from my constituents regarding a blighted property. 

Blight …

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We must fight blight in the borough

Posted

Synonyms for the word “blight” are scourge, bane, plague, menace, woeful, trouble and pest. 

Those words sum up the sentiments that have been recently shared with me from my constituents regarding a blighted property. 

Blight is a cancer to Middletown, as it is to most urban communities across the commonwealth. It starts with one neighbor who does not take care of their property and then spreads to a neighborhood, and can end with the destruction of an entire community. Blight impedes Middletown’s imagine as a community that is trying to move forward economically. Instead, it conveys a message of a community that is old and worn out. 

Fortunately, the General Assembly has addressed this issue through a slew of state laws. For example, municipal and county governments are enabled to create land banks to remove problem properties from the endless cycle of vacancy and abandonment. Dauphin County created a Land Bank Authority in 2013, and more counties are moving in that direction. 

The passage of the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act, commonly known as Act 90, gives cities towns, and municipalities the express power to use very forceful actions to enforce their property maintenance codes.

Here in Middletown, we have to develop a five-point plan to address blight or else we jeopardize our community’s future. 

First, my colleagues and I need to develop and approve a comprehensive blight plan. Secondly, that plan must incorporate allocating appropriate staffing resources for aggressive code enforcement. Third, code enforcement personnel must assess the nature and extent of the blight within the borough. It is important to collect data on the number of homes that are abandoned, have serious violations such as structural integrity issues, and/or properties with relatively minor offenses such as high weeds and grass. Fourth, code enforcement officers need to develop a plan to address each violation, up to and including enforcement measures. Fifth, when necessary, engage the Dauphin County Land Bank Authority for the acquisition and subsequent disposing of properties that are unoccupied and abandoned.

Frequently, communities across the commonwealth are stymied when they attempt to address blight within their borders. I believe that is because they do not have a comprehensive plan or approach that focuses on staff resource allocation and action. 

The people of my ward, in fact the borough as a whole, want something more than lip service that equals to the proverbial “I hear your pain.” They want action. 

I urge residents to engage your respective council member on how you believe the borough should combat blight. Your voice and action will determine what kind of community you will leave behind to future Middletown citizens. Do you want to see your children live in a safe community, with vibrant businesses and healthy housing stock? Or a dusty community that motorists drive to in order to get to the other side of Route 230? 

I chose the former over the latter. What say you?

Diana McGlone represents the Third Ward on the Middletown Borough Council Reach her by email at dmcglone@middletownborough.com
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