City makes progress with nuisance properties

NEW CUMBERLAND-Efforts begun six years ago to rid New Cumberland of nuisance properties are starting to bear fruit, city officials said.

The city has filed nuisance complaints against two property owners on South Chester Street and is pursuing the demolition of properties on North Chestnut and North Chester streets.

“We’re whittling these down,” said Mayor Linda McNeil, who has made the abatement of building nuisances a priority of her administration.

City officials say the nuisance actions, which followed a citywide cleanup in April, are part of a larger, ongoing effort to make New Cumberland more attractive to businesses.

“We have two really nice sites that companies would find attractive to relocate to, but we want our town to look good to them-and to us,” McNeil said. “We like it, and we don’t want it deteriorating.”

The two property owners-Alan Dawson and Tammy Lynn Wade-were cited under the city’s nuisance ordinance, which defines a nuisance as “any litter, trash, garbage, or refuse or any abandoned unlicensed motor vehicle or any part thereof, which is or may be offensive to the neighborhood or citizens generally” and “any offensive or unwholesome substance or growth of grass, weeds, or brush upon any lot or parcel of ground.”

The Dawson property, in the 400 block of South Chester Street, is a storage building that has an accumulation of junk and debris, McNeil said. The Wade property, also in the 400 block, is a house with an accumulation of high grass, weeds and debris, she said.

Both property owners appeared in New Cumberland Municipal Court on Thursday and have been given until June 19, the next court date, to make improvements. Their properties will be inspected to see if they are in compliance with the ordinance, McNeil said.

The mayor said both residents could have avoided a citation if they had taken advantage of the city’s “well-publicized” cleanup event in April.

“We did survey properties after the cleanup and determined there were some that were unacceptable. … It was a citywide survey. We looked at several sites, especially ones that had complaints from neighbors,” she said. “The city needs to help them any way we can to make it better for the town and for the property owners.”

Two other people were cited following the cleanup, but the citations were dismissed after police Chief Lester Skinner determined “they had moved forward appropriately to rectify the situation,” McNeil said.

Dawson has been on the city’s radar before. In October, New Cumberland City Council put a lien on his property on South Chester Street where the city had paid for a building demolition.

The building was the first to be razed under a new effort to reactivate the city’s Building Enforcement Agency and enforce the city’s building code. The city hopes to recoup the $4,500 it spent on the demolition through the lien, which is good for five years.

Also scheduled for demolition is a long-vacant, red brick house at 602 N. Chestnut St. and the old Lantern Inn on North Chester Street. The latter has been foreclosed on by Northern Hancock Bank & Trust and should be down within 30 days, said city building inspector Shawn Marks.

The red brick house has been condemned by the courts and is awaiting action by City Council, Marks said. An estimated $6,000 would need to be appropriated to cover the demolition costs, McNeil said.

“We have the legal right to tear it down,” Marks said. “It’s one of the first things you see when you come into town, so we’ve got to move on that swiftly. … The dilapidated properties are not going to be tolerated in New Cumberland anymore. If you want to live here, you’ve got to go by the codes.”

The house at 602 N. Chestnut St., which has the words “no trespassing” spray-painted on it, is one of about 10 that the city first sought to have condemned by the courts in December 2008.

In City of New Cumberland v. Kevin and Janet Chumney, the city sought a court order declaring the properties a “public nuisance due to a severely dilapidated condition.” The city finally got its order, but not until March 2011.

The order by Hancock County Circuit Court Judge Arthur M. Recht identified six properties as nuisances that the city could abate by “whatever action it deems necessary”:

* 706 N. Chestnut St.;

* 602 N. Chestnut St.;

* 902 N. Chestnut St.;

* South Chester Street (no address given);

* Commerce Street (no address given); and

* 707 Commerce St.

It is unclear, three years later, how many of the six nuisance properties were abated.

There appears to be a house, hidden by an overgrowth of brush, at the 706 N. Chestnut St. address. Marks said he recently spoke with the neighbor about buying the property, whose last known owner was Kevin Chumney, of Salem, Ohio.

The house at 602 N. Chestnut St. house that is slated for demolition is owned by Michael McAbee and Daria Lynn Porter, according to the Hancock County Assessor’s Office.

There does not appear to be any structure at the 902 N. Chestnut St. address, which had been owned by Corben B. Call Jr., according to Circuit Court records.

The city also has set its sights on a vacant downtown building in the 100 block of North Chester Street, which Marks and other city officials recently inspected.

“The building is in horrible shape,” he said, noting that it was once a variety store. “When I walked in, you could smell the mildew. The shelves had collapsed into a big pile of junk. … It’s going to come down without us if we don’t act.”

Marks said the building is tied up in the estate proceedings of Corben B. Call Jr., who died in October 2011, and that he gave the family three weeks to submit a proposal to the city.

“We’re delaying the condemnation process to give them time to come up with what they would like to do,” he said. “If they don’t respond in the correct manner, then we will have to get a court order to take the thing down.”