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Laws need sharper teeth

Drive through almost any neighborhood in Lawrence County and you will see them. Ramshackle, dilapidated structures that are falling in on themselves.

Weeds have overgrown the wooden skeletons. Roofs are caved in. Walls are barely standing. Paint is flaking off. Trash is often piled high

These are certainly eyesores in our community but also public safety hazards. For years various organizations have worked to remove these blights and restore these properties to the tax rolls.

It is encouraging to see a revived conversation that now includes Operation TLC, a grassroots civic organization that focuses on beautification on the eastern part of the county.

The group and other concerned parties recently came together to look at ways to address this public problem. There are three primary ways to handle dilapidated property — voluntary removal, condemnation and tax foreclosure.

Unfortunately, all are fairly slow processes.

There would be value in looking at ways to create an expedited method for cleaning up property for which there is clearly no other alternative.

This would likely require local — and possibly state — legislation to determine or outline the legal steps needed.

We certainly don’t want to create a system that could be abused to essentially steal property from law-abiding citizens but having a process that didn’t take years could be beneficial to the entire community.

Taking it even a step farther, it would be nice to see Lawrence County as a whole establish some basic property maintenance guidelines associated with upkeep, junk cars, eyesores and more.

Right now every village, township or municipality is left to create and enforce these on their own.

The result? A non-standard system that creates confusion, and lots of homes and properties that send the wrong message to those who visit our region.

Having a uniform set of rules, regardless of where you live, would go a long way toward making our county more presentable and appealing to those who want to make Lawrence County their home.

It would also take the burden off elected officials who have to deal with the issue.

Of course the municipalities could go above and beyond to create their own guidelines, but at least there would be a lowest common denominator baseline from which to start.

The old cliche is that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” but the reality is that people are certainly judging our region by its clutter.


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.