Vicksburg blighted homes: 1 holding, 1 may go

The fire-damaged Best Street property currently under discussion.

By Jef Rietsma

Vicksburg Village Council members at a July meeting gave the owner of a blighted home on East Prairie 60 days to bring it up to code. The owner of a fire-damaged home on Best Street failed to show up at a hearing.

Scott Graham, who handles dangerous-building matters for the village, said he reached agreement with the owner of the vacant home at 513 East Prairie St.

“The property owner has rights the village doesn’t want to take away unless absolutely appropriate. What typically happens is after a passage of time, it becomes crucial to (set) a drop-dead for trying to give any property owner the right and the time to fix a condition that has risen to dangerousness.”

Owners of the home agreed to a 60-day window to address code issues and fix it to the point that it is no longer considered dangerous and is in compliance with all codes. Graham said an inspection will be conducted by the village’s building inspector within 60 days to confirm the improvements were made.

“If they do not (comply), on the 61st day, the village has the absolute right to remedy the problem, most notably by demolition of any buildings that are non-compliant,” Graham said. “The owners here agreed to post a bond in the amount of $25,000 for the purpose of reimbursing the village … if they get the property and the structures all (up to code), they’re entitled then to seek to use the property like anyone else would because they would be in full compliance with all of the statutes within the building code.”

Graham said the $25,000 bond is important because it serves as potential reimbursement instead of the village putting the parcel on tax rolls if matters are not fully addressed on or before the end of the 60-day period in mid-September.

The second property, heavily damaged by fire, is at 640 Best St. Graham said notice of intent to declare the structure dangerous was served to the property owner. Graham said the owner was advised of the July 17 village council meeting and advised to attend.

“The owner has not appeared … and is (thereby) in default,” he said. “When they don’t appear (in person) to contest, then they’re in default and the village can move forward.”

He said considering the condition of the structure, there’s no way a 60-day window would be enough time to bring it up to code. The building on the property is unoccupied.

Graham said he was willing to negotiate with the owner had they showed up at the meeting. Consequently, Graham said Village Manager Jim Mallery will be given authority for the municipality to decide how to proceed.

Council member Carl Keller said he has lived in the vicinity of the Prairie Street property for more than 30 years. In that time, Keller said he believes the residence has never been occupied.

“This has been an issue, since I got on the council, that I quietly kept in front of staff,” he said. “I’m glad this is coming around because a lot of the residents on my side of the town were getting a little agitated about it.”

In other business, Mallery said the rained-out July 12 ‘Burg Days of Summer weekly downtown event has been rescheduled to Aug. 23. All vendors and musical talent lined up for the July 12 event indicated they will be able to return Aug. 23.

Also, a resident from the 200 block of West Washington Street expressed concerns about dogs, noise and blight. She said two pit bulls owned by her neighbors are allowed to run loose, and are prone to menacingly charge people and other dogs. Mallery said the dogs have since been removed from the property and their owners, who rent the house where they live, have been cited by animal control.

The West Washington Street resident also said another nearby residence has weeds in excess of five feet. Another neighbor has two couches sitting in the driveway, she said. A mattress has dumped on a nearby hill and a recliner has been left near the high school tennis courts.

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