Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell’s proposal this week for City Council to borrow funds to raze 85 structures is a good idea, with a great deal of merit, but a few wrinkles need to be ironed out first.
Assuming all law enforcement options have been exhausted in the effort to make property owners bear the expense of such demolition, Council must be certain the city can afford to divert $200,000 a year from milling and paving projects, and that collection efforts such as a proposed $100-a-month fee on residential structures that have been vacant for more than a year can make up for the reductions or eliminations of some business and occupation taxes and raises for firefighters who might take on new inspection responsibilities.
Decaying structures are not only an eyesore, they are a safety hazard. But, Councilwoman Kim Coram was right to ask the mayor “We’re going to tear a lot of stuff down. What about a plan to get something back up there?”
Demolition is step one, and a necessary step, but efforts to encourage revitalization of blighted areas must be thorough. Many lots on which hopelessly dilapidated properties now sit would not conform to zoning regulations for width for new residential construction, for example. City officials might have to get creative in finding or allowing updated uses for those lots.
Councilman Mike Reynolds said he was excited about the proposals, and he should be. Excitement can fade, however, and a project like this takes a lot of effort and maybe even more time. The pride residents take in their city will have to be matched by planning that can stand up to intense legal and financial scrutiny. Newell’s presentation to Council’s Urban Renewal Authority showed the beginnings of that planning, and could be the start of great things for Parkersburg. The key will be in the follow-through.