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Parkersburg Urban Renewal Authority accepts properties

Sale, eminent domain acquisition also get approval

Parkersburg City Council President Zach Stanley, left, and Councilman J.R. Carpenter listen to discussion during Tuesday’s Urban Renewal Authority meeting at the Municipal Building. With URA Chairman Mike Reynolds and Vice Chairman Bob Mercer absent, Stanley presided over the meeting. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Acting as the Urban Renewal Authority on Tuesday, Parkersburg City Council accepted donations of two pieces of property, agreed to sell another and voted to acquire a dilapidated structure via eminent domain.

The authority voted 6-1, with Council President Zach Stanley opposed and Councilmen Bob Mercer and Mike Reynolds absent, to accept the donation of 1229 Swann St., despite property owner Masil L. Casto owing the city more than $1,000 in city fees. There are also delinquent taxes owed on the property, as well as a $12,441 demolition lien after the vacant house there was razed in April following a fire.

Although the authority’s policy is to not accept donations of properties on which city fees are owed or that have liens on them, Assistant City Attorney Rob Tebay said that doesn’t prevent them from doing so.

“This is a lot the city’s going to be paying somebody to mow anyway,” he said.

Councilwoman Wendy Tuck asked if there was any benefit to accepting the property. Tebay said the city would at least receive something of value in the land, but would not be able to recoup the demolition costs.

Parkersburg resident Seth Cressey explains his interest in purchasing the lot at 1502 Avery St. during Tuesday’s Urban Renewal Authority meeting at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“The property’s not worth $12,000,” he said.

On another 6-1 vote, with Stanley opposed, the authority accepted the donation of 1004 George St., a lot that has been vacant since the structure on it was demolished following a fire in 2013. The city has a $7,800 demolition lien on the property, and the owner, Living Stone Inc., owes $89.50 in grass and weed fees. There is also a balance of $2,831.20 in city fees owed by a previous owner, plus delinquent taxes.

“The adjacent property owner has expressed interest in purchasing (this lot) from the URA if accepted,” said Sam Tuten, with Sixmo City Services, which is providing contracted city planner work for Parkersburg.

Councilman J.R. Carpenter said he imagined that interest would be stronger if the liens are removed after the city accepts the property. Tebay said whatever is offered for the land could be put toward the demolition lien.

Stanley said he voted against both donations because of the fees still owed and the smaller lot sizes.

The authority voted 5-2, with Stanley and Councilwoman Jesse Cottrille opposed, to accept an offer from Avery Street Historic District resident Seth Cressey to purchase a vacant lot at 1502 Avery St. for $250. Cressey said he owns and has renovated three properties on Avery Street and is closing this month on four other properties in the area.

He said there are dilapidated houses on either side of 1502 Avery St. and he hopes to eventually acquire those lots.

“So, it’s a gamble,” Cressey said. “That’s why my offer is so low.”

For now, he said, he will maintain the property and lease it to a family that lives nearby for $1 a year to use as a yard.

The authority voted 7-0 to acquire 1613 Fairfax St. via eminent domain for the purpose of curing slum and blight.

Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl said it’s been a problem in her district for years. Although located in a good neighborhood, the property is occupied by a trailer surrounded by storage buildings, she said.

“It is a trash hole,” Kuhl said. “It attracts unwanted rodents.”

The city would have to pay fair market value of $1,000 to acquire the property, with demolition expected to cost $8,000 to $10,000. There are also delinquent taxes and liens on the property.

The authority voted 7-0 to table a proposed donation of 803 Virginia Ave. until questions about land contracts for the property could be settled.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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