As part of the state budget bill for fiscal years 2022-2023, a “Building demolition and site revitalization program” was created, providing each of Ohio’s 88 counties with $ 500,000 to be used to eliminate blighted properties.
Washington County Commissioners chose to have Washington Morgan Community Action administer the funds when they become available.
Dawn Rauch, director of planning and development at WMCAP, said demolition of properties is done with voluntary consent of the property owner, who will retain ownership of the land after the demolition is complete.
“The county asked cities, villages and townships to submit a list of vacant blighted structures in their areas, ranked in order of priority,” Rauch said. “Seventy-eight properties were identified. All property owners identified were sent voluntary consent forms to return if they were interested in participating in the program. Twenty-nine property owners have submitted forms to participate. ”
She said depending on the cost of demolition, not all properties that submitted consent forms may be demolished. The list of 29 will be worked through until funding runs out, she said.
Marietta Mayor Josh Schlicher said Wayne Rinehart, city code enforcement officer, goes by the International Property Maintenance Code, which the city adopted in 2013. In the code is a list of unsafe conditions which can lead to the property being marked for possible demolition.
But what is blight? It’s a word that is commonly heard in certain sections of town.
The dictionary definition is the state of being decayed or destroyed. They are houses or buildings that have been abandoned or neglected which can cause health and safety issues for the surrounding properties.
Some of the unsafe conditions include stairs, landings, balconies and similar walking surfaces, including handrails, which are not structurally sound; and foundation systems that are not firmly supported by footings, are not plumb and free from open cracks and breaks, or are not properly anchored.
He said in the IPMC they have adopted, there is no mention of “Blight.”
Schlicher said Rinehart looks at the code at each property where there is a complaint to see how up to code the house is.
“He breaks it down according to the situation,” he said. “Flooring, masonry joints… structural foundation walls, exterior walls, roofs and drainage.”
Rinehart submitted a list of nine properties to the county for consideration where the property owners have agreed to participate. The properties are, in priority order:
228 1/2 S. Sixth St.
302 Market St.
109 Muskingum Drive.
203 Montgomery St. (former Shadix TV Sales and Service).
901-903 Jahn St.
1005 Warren St.
624 Pearl St. Ext.
765 Buckeye Ave.
St. 108 St. Clair St.
“Instead of him saying, ‘in my opinion, this doesn’t look right,’ he’s going by what the code says,” Schlicher said.
He said one code violation does not mean the house should be taken down.
“There’s rodents, there’s tall grass, there’s weeds growing all over the house, there’s broken windows, the porch is falling off, the roof is caving in… we’ve got those,” he said. “There’s some that have high grass or a couple of bags of trash in the backyard. A handrail might be off the front porch or the place looks immaculate but the garage is full of trash. Every single property has a story behind it. When you get through the story, you go through the facts of what technically is wrong with it or what the public safety risk is. ”
Marietta City Fourth Ward Councilman Geoff Schenkel has taken the issue of blighted properties to heart, as there are several in his ward, which includes Harmar.
“It has emerged as one of the biggest concerns from constituents in the Fourth Ward,” he said.
Schenkel said they have looked at different ways to find a solution by looking at different types of blighted properties. They may have a private company tear down a building, as Promanco recently did on a property on Gilman Avenue.
Some $ 50,000 was set aside in the annual city budget to use toward demolition, so that could be used. Community Block Development Grant money has also been used on these properties.
As a Harmar resident, Schenkel knew the ripple effect of having blight because he lived next to it.
“They were abandoned, structurally failing, neglected, high weeds… contributing to crime,” he said, echoing Schlicher’s thought that there is a spectrum to what is considered blight.
He is hopeful the demolition and revitalization program money takes care of some of the worst properties in his ward and the City of Marietta.
“It hurts people and oftentimes puts them in danger when (blighted properties) are not taken care of,” Schenkel said.
Michele Newbanks can be reached at