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Columbia Press

Columnists & Other Opinions

Mayor's Message: Community building for the next decade

Mayor Henry Balensifer
By Henry Balensifer, Friday, June 8, 2018

In my last Mayor’s Message, I talked about our city goals for the coming fiscal year. Those goals are Community Building, Vision Plan Update, Downtown Improvements and Emergency Preparedness.

The overarching question that guided the creation of these goals was “What decisions can we make now to ensure Warrenton is a great place to live and raise a family in 10 years?”

As some may already know, every Monday at 9 a.m., I hold a constituent coffee at City Hall.

Everyone is welcome to come. It’s a lot less formal than a commission meeting, and it’s a great way to have frank exchanges about concerns. One of the recurring concerns has been nuisance properties.

Nuisance properties are easy to spot. They’re usually commercial or residential properties that have junk strewn all over or, in a more recent case, a derelict and condemned house that blights the entryway to our city.

Nobody likes living or working next to a nuisance. They create public safety hazards and/or reduce a neighborhood’s attractiveness, which affects property values.

The best way to abate nuisances is for property owners to take notice and clean up their properties. If they do not, the city will send a letter and suggest they clean up their property.

If the property is not cleaned up, then the issue will go before the city commission for a nuisance declaration to compel the property owner to abate the nuisance in 10 days. If those 10 days expire and no appeal is filed, the city can send in a crew to clean it up and bill the owner for the cleanup cost.

If a property owner does not pay the cleanup costs, then a lien is placed on the property. I can only recall one property where this occurred, and that was a very special case that involved federal law enforcement actions as well. In that case, the city had to absorb the cost.

I want to point out the amazing efforts that City Commissioner Tom Dyer has taken to work alongside property owners to abate nuisances. In addition to gently approaching property owners to see if they’d voluntarily clean up, he’s organized volunteer crews to assist in efforts when necessary. This is true community building — neighbors helping neighbors!

In the past year, four properties have been declared nuisances, and three have been cleaned up. The fourth one was declared just last week.

The city manager is proposing a matching grant program for the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee’s review to see if the Warrenton Urban Renewal Agency could provide matching funds to help cover the costs of voluntary cleanup. Our Economic Roadmapping process is just getting under way, which I expect will result in the formation of a community action team to more formally assist with cleanups.

If you have not yet taken our city economic survey, I earnestly request you take it. It’s only eight questions and we are looking for as much citizen input as possible. The survey is at:

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