Blight an issue at township meetings
ALPENA -The issue of blight in Alpena Township has been addressed at several board of trustees meetings by the volunteer group Taking Pride in Alpena: South Corridor led by Larry Clark and Gary Parteka. The group has addressed the board of trustees on several occasions, with new and ongoing concerns about what they perceive to be blight. These meetings have often become tense, and both parties leave frustrated with the results.
The volunteers have often brought up the abandonded commercial property of the Thunder Bay Motel at these township meetings, with Township Supervisor Marie Twite insisting the motel is not blight.
“I believe that there’s a value,” Twite said. “Now some people don’t consider that a value, but that gentleman is not interested in doing anything because he believes he can sell it the way it is.
“There’s not anything laying around in that man’s yard that anyone could trip over. It’s up for sale. We do not go in and inspect homes that are up for sale … I would not say that’s in our line of authority.”
Twite has worked with the owner on different occasions regarding problematic areas that have been hazardous in the past.
“We consider blight and blighted properties to be stuff in the yard, not normally homes unless they are caving in,” Twite said. “When it becomes a danger to the community or to the resident, then we have the authority to go in and make them clean that up. The owner has cleaned up the porch and boarded up windows like we’ve asked in the past.”
The budget is tight, and the township has to make decisions on where to spend the available funds.
“We do not have any laws or requirements on planting flowers, painting, things of that nature that some folks in the community would like to see happen,” Twite said. “We don’t have the resources to provide that in our community. We work within our budget to make sure that we provide the best we can with the monies that we have.
“We’ve never really had any issues like what we’re having now, regarding a neighborhood. We talk with the landholder and nine chances out of 10 the landholder complies with our discussion. We’ve cleaned a lot of places up in the community and I’ve always thought we did a great job, personally.”
Clark said members of the group have written letters suggesting areas of blight in the south corrider and have been met with mixed results.
“We’re seeing very little results,” Clark said. “There was a home on (US-23) south that had a trailer camper in the front yard on its side and that was handled. All we’re asking them really to do is enforce the blight ordinance and the dangerous building ordinance. The definition of what is blight is clearly written in those two ordinances.”
Clark and the group sees the motel as a public hazard. According to Clark, the property has been vacant for 25 years.
“People could get hurt by being able to enter those buildings, even though it is private property. There’s still openings in windows at ground level,” Clark said. “We want the township to write the letters and follow up with the people to make sure they are complying.”
The township handles blight with a system of steps to give the property owners a chance to clean it up. Twite or building inspector and zoning administrator Les Klimaszewski will go check on the complaint, and try to contact the property owner.
Before violation notices are sent in the mail, officials try to simply talk to the property owner in violation and ask them to attend to the problem.
“Anything that has to do with blighted areas, we go out and visit the property,” Twite said. “If still no response, we determine whether we need to involve the attorney. We get to make that determination, not the outside public.”
Twite said there was a community project where tires were cleaned up, and that the township has worked hard to do a cleanup day in May.
“That has been a big plus for our community.” she said.
Twite said she is glad Taking Pride in Alpena is doing the cleanup, but the group needs to let the township and the building department take care of the blight issues.
“I think they have good intentions, I just think they do not understand what the laws are,” Twite said. “They want to abide by the law in full in a certain area, but to me, I need to enforce it everywhere.
“We are the authorized board, and we will make our decisions in a democratic fashion and are willing to work with people. (Taking Pride in Alpena has) a lot of great things they could do. They can dream about what 23 could look like, they can draw that out and work towards their goal and I support that concept.”
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.