The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

April 6, 2013

Progress being made with Fayette properties

FAYETTEVILLE — Hundreds of houses are coming down in Fayette County. On Friday, the county commission heard updates on the progress of two programs designed to rid the county of blight and flood-prone residential areas.

First, they heard the latest on the slow, ongoing struggle to bring down some of the county’s dilapidated buildings through a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and a $400,000 loan from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

The Fayette County Dilapidated Buildings Project identifies blighted structures and notifies their owners that they are in violation of code. In the past two years, 63 owners have voluntarily taken down the buildings after receiving such notice. The county has stepped in to take down four, after a lengthy legal process.

Fayette County Commission President Matthew Wender continued to push for a faster, more efficient process.

“Something’s got to get better,” he said. “There are a lot of unhappy folks who are not satisfied with the pace of buildings coming down.”

Prosecuting Attorney Carl Harris outlined the multi-step legal process that’s triggered by serving notice on a property owner. He says his office is going to be offering more assistance to the program’s coordinator, Angela Gerald, in the future.

“I think we’ve got the wheels greased and I think you’re going to see a noticeable difference in getting these things cranked out,” he said.

Two specific properties were also discussed.

One, which has been taken down but not hauled away, is on Gatewood Road and owned by Buren Renick. The commission is asking Renick to come in to provide an update and timeline on expected progress for clearing the debris.

The other property is the old pool hall in Winona, which has collapsed. The difficulty with this property is that the ownership has changed three times since September of last year, so serving papers is problematic.

The county is attempting to solve the problem by filing an official legal complaint stating that the owners need to get on the commission agenda to plead their case. So even if the property changes again, the complaint will be on record.

The commission also ordered the demolition of a property at 432 Hilltop Loop Road.

Another program in the county is bringing down houses at a rapid rate. The Dunloup Creek Voluntary Floodplain Buyout is about halfway through its goal of 198 tear-downs using federal grant money.

Theresa White, who is overseeing the program for the county, gave a detailed breakdown on the accomplishments so far.

Title and deed work is complete for 165 properties; 92 homes have been purchased; and 71 demolished.

The program is on track to finish with money left over, hopefully by September 2014, according to Pam Yost.

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