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Salem officials look at tools to fight blight

SALEM — Councilman Sal Salvino reviewed ordinances of several communities related to requirements for property exteriors, noting that all mentioned the adverse effect of blight on a neighborhood.

“I look at blight as a disease. It spreads. Other communities don’t tolerate what we’re allowing,” he said.

Salvino spoke out again against blight during a recent meeting of city council’s Committee of the Whole, sharing his analysis of rules other cities have in place to fight it and asking whether the city needs to beef up its own ordinances or just enforce what’s already in place.

He suggested looking at code enforcement first, then introducing legislation if necessary. Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the committee encompassing all seven council members, said the time has come. As a council, she said they need to give the housing inspectors the tools they need for enforcement, such as handheld devices to speed up the paperwork process. She suggested a practice of inspecting each ward for violations in a rotation, noting they all have examples of blight like the photographs Salvino shared.

Salvino talked about an impound lot at the corner of West Wilson near Newgarden, showing photos of the damaged fence and vehicles as an example of blight. He also showed the former gas station building on West State Street, with graffiti on it, along with peeling paint on homes.

Some of the communities he used in the analysis included Shaker Heights, Canfield, Columbiana, Wickliffe, Eastlake, Loveland and Fremont. He saw a trend in how they talked about prohibiting conditions that can cause the diminution of property values.

“What it tells me, the blight you have could have a potential impact on your neighbors,” he said.

Dickey asked if any of those communities had prosecuted anyone for violations, but Salvino didn’t know. Councilman Andrew Null asked about the end goal, whether it was for the city to have something similar in place. Salvino said the city needs to up its standards and curb what’s going on in certain areas of the city right now.

Dickey mentioned expanding the International Property Maintenance Code to cover the whole city instead of just downtown and having a standard for expectations when it comes to completing inspections and determining what’s needed to reach that goal. With fines, she said that money could be used to help people with repairs to their homes. Both Salvino and Council President Tom Baker both said they don’t want people to think they’re trying to make money off of this. It’s about improving the city.

Salvino said Salem is struggling when it comes to growth, even though there are pockets of good, such as Chipotle investing in a Salem location and groups like Salem Preservation inspiring people to fix their properties. He also said it would be a good idea to highlight properties that do improve, using before and after photos of the work.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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