Piqua ramps up code enforcement

By Sam Wildow - Miami Valley Sunday News

PIQUA — One of the ways the city of Piqua is promoting neighborhood revitalization is a push toward enforcing the zoning code, addressing nearly 1,000 code compliance issues since hiring a code compliance coordinator in 2016.

“Since 2016, the Development Department (has) gotten active in the property maintenance business,” Community and Economic Development Director Chris Schmiesing said during this week’s Piqua City Commission meeting.

Schmiesing said the city’s code compliance coordinator has addressed 995 different issues since June 2016.

“And that’s been by way of looking at the main corridors where the vast of the majority of the people in the community see issues every day, so that’s where the focus started,” Schmiesing said. He added the code compliance coordinator also addresses calls or complaints made to the city about maintenance or code issues.

“Eventually, as we get the main corridors addressed, they’ll start working back into the neighborhoods,” Schmiesing said.

In the past three years, the city has opened 995 cases of property maintenance issues and 730 of those cases have been resolved. Schmiesing said that was a rate of approximately 73 percent of voluntary compliance from the property owner where no other action was taken.

Of those 995 cases, 15 were also dismissed for being unwarranted and 250 are still open. Of those 250, 21 of which have received their first notice. There are also 25 properties where “the conditions were so severe and so bad — the neglect was so horrible — that they were condemned,” Schmiesing said. “They were not suitable for human beings to be living in them.” There are also 88 cases that are at the final notice status.

Schmiesing said the city is also trying to work with the residents on these maintenance issues, explaining that if the property owners are responsive, the city works with them on a timeline to get the property maintenance issue resolved.

“It’s not a sledgehammer approach. It’s very much a, ‘Hey, let’s start a dialogue, do you understand that this concerns needs to be addressed, and how long will it take to address it,’” Schmiesing said. “We’re working with the property owners to try and get these things resolved.”

Schmiesing later noted how the city has been able to work with some property owners to demolish blight on their property on their own without taxpayers having to front the bill of the cost for the demolition. One example was the old hotel on Country Club Road, which Schmiesing said is “now a very attractive marketable property.”

It is when the city does not hear back from the property owner that they city issues a final notice, then another letter from the city law director, and then pursues the issue through court. Approximately 60 cases have received a letter from the city law director, and approximately 34 cases are currently being addressed in Miami County Municipal Court.

The city also has to deal with properties that have no active ownership status, be it that they were abandoned or bank-owned. Schmiesing referred to those as “stuck” properties

“There’s no one that we can go to to try and compel them to take care of maintaining their property,” Schmiesing said, noting there are currently 19 properties the city is dealing with that fall into that “stuck” status. “We’re working on a means to be able to address those.”

Schmiesing said there are mechanisms in the Ohio Revised Code address these “stuck” properties, and the city has been working with the county treasurer, auditor, and prosecutor offices to work on solutions to those properties.

“We’re at a point now where they recognize there are way too many properties that have delinquent back taxes or are abandoned or vacant and they’re stuck. There’s no one doing anything with these properties, and there’s no one for us to go to to compel them to do something.”

Schmiesing talked about the idea of a land re-utilization program, where the Piqua Improvement Corporation could work to take ownership of those properties and then solicit proposals to restore properties that are suitable for restoration or demolish properties that are not. This would address or remove any blight that may be having a negative effect on surrounding properties in the neighborhood, Schmiesing said.

The city also offers help to residents to improve their homes through state funding through the Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program, “which offers rehabilitation assistance and owner repair assistance,” Schmiesing said. In the past, this program has been for both rental homes and owner-occupied homes, but in the future, the city plans to focus mainly on offering assistance to owner-occupied homes due to a lack of interest from rental owners. Earlier this year, the city partnered with the Board of Miami County Commissioners, Tipp City, and Troy to apply for $650,000 worth of CHIP funding with $276,000 being dedicated to Piqua-specific projects focusing on private owner rehabilitation and repair projects.

Schmiesing also noted the city has seen an increased interest in home improvements in the Piqua-Caldwell Historic District.

“Neighborhood revitalization-wise, we’ve seen a surge of interest in the restoration of our historical homes in the Caldwell District,” Schmiesing said. He went on to say that residents in that area have recognized in the value of improving those historic homes.

“They’ve embraced that opportunity, purchasing them and methodically restoring them to be the beautiful properties that they once were once again,” Schmiesing said. He said it was a good sign to have this type of investment in the city’s housing stock, particularly in a historic district.

By Sam Wildow

Miami Valley Sunday News

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmediamidwest.com. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.