Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority votes to accept property

Location in area with other authority-owned lots

Photo by Evan Bevins The Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority voted this week to accept the donation of the property at 1400 St. Marys Ave., pending a clean title opinion.

PARKERSBURG — A longtime eyesore could be coming down in the not-too-distant future.

Sitting as the Urban Renewal Authority this week, members of Parkersburg City Council voted 8-0 to approve an application to donate property at 1400 St. Marys Ave. to the city.

It’s the former location of the Blue Moon Tavern, as well as an adjacent residential structure. The property also sits in the midst of a cluster of parcels owned by the URA that could be ground zero for a future city housing initiative.

“It’s a property that’s been vacant for several years now, and it continues to fall into a state of disrepair,” Parkersburg Development Director Rickie Yeager said, noting debris is accumulating behind the one-story brick building that used to be a restaurant and bar.

A resident of the neighborhood, who declined to provide his name, said he’ll be glad to see the buildings come down. In addition to the structures being an eyesore, the man said people have been staying inside them.

Photo by Evan Bevins One of the structures at 1400 St. Marys Ave. is the former Blue Moon Tavern.

At Tuesday’s Urban Renewal Authority meeting, some council members pointed out that $3,739 is owed for fire, police and sanitation fees on the property. While being in good standing with respect to city fees is a condition for the authority to consider, Yeager said “there are trade-offs” in this situation.

Having the property donated means the city would avoid the expense of acquiring it through eminent domain, which would require giving the owner fair market value, he said. As of January 2017 data from the county, the land and structures were valued at $54,300, but the fair market value would have been determined by a separate appraisal, Yeager said.

The property is owned by Charleston resident Gwyn Derrick, who told city officials she acquired it from her late husband.

“It took the city a couple, three years anyway to even find out who to send the bills to,” Mayor Tom Joyce said.

In a letter accompanying the application to donate, Derrick said she finds it impossible to maintain the property.

Photo by Evan Bevins The Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority voted this week to accept the donation of the property at 1400 St. Marys Ave., pending a clean title opinion.

“Financially, it is impossible to repair or keep up the property that has been an eyesore to the community,” she said.

Councilman J.R. Carpenter said he was concerned about the authority acquiring property on which money might be owed to the state or county. Joyce said that would be determined by a title search before the city accepted the property, if the authority voted to go forward.

“The only reason we don’t know if the title is clean is why spend 250 bucks on a title opinion if you don’t want it?” he said.

If there is money owed to other entities, the city would not take the property, Joyce said. If there is not, and the city accepted the property, it would not recoup the unpaid fines.

“Who would we enforce it on, ourselves?” he said.

The staff report estimated the cost of demolition of the structures between $15,000 and $20,000.

The authority voted 8-0, with Councilman Bob Mercer absent, to accept the donation.

The authority also discussed a proposed housing initiative first outlined by Yeager in August. Among the recommendations were establishing a nonprofit community development corporation to implement effective strategies, designating an area for the creation of tiny houses and acquiring additional properties and considering a tax abatement program for the construction or rehabilitation of market rate and affordable housing in targeted neighborhoods.

One of the first steps is to establish an exploratory committee made up of representatives from the administration and public and private sector entities such as banks, real-estate developers, the Parkersburg Area Realtors Association, Home Builders Association of the Mid-Ohio Valley, Wood County Commission and Wood County Schools.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl made a motion to form such a committee, but withdrew it when Councilman Zach Stanley, who said he supported the idea, pointed out that the meeting’s agenda only included a review or discussion of the initiative and not any action. Authority Chairman Mike Reynolds agreed to add that item to the group’s next agenda.