November 30, 2023

Blighted properties committee prioritizes former Webster School building, other sites | News, Sports, Jobs

3 min read
Blighted properties committee prioritizes former Webster School building, other sites | News, Sports, Jobs

Blighted properties committee prioritizes former Webster School building, other sites | News, Sports, Jobs

The former Webster School at 1663 Memorial Ave. in Williamsport. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

City of Williamsport officials continue to review a number of residential and commercial properties that recently have been certified by the blighted properties committee as officially blighted.

The latest commercial property recently certified under that status is the former Webster School at 1663 Memorial Ave. Owners from Olivewood Complex LLC will be sent a letter and have time to appeal the decision, said Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator. Typically, they are given the amount of time before the next committee meeting, he said.

The building was condemned in 2012 and hasn’t had much done to it since then, Gerardi said.

The roof, windows, structural issues, downspouts, and chimney towers are in poor shape.

“I have several rental properties in the area and it is definitely blighted,” Councilman Vincent Pulizzi said. He considered it to be a danger to area children because of broken window glass.

The committee also deemed a residence at 431 Anthony St. as blighted.

The house was condemned in 2018. The owner has received violation notices but the place remains in disrepair with siding falling off, openings, a chimney that is leaning, it has a gutted interior, steps that are decaying and little if no effort from the owner to fix it, Gerardi said.

A house at 620 Green St., condemned since 2020 and which remains vacant, was put on the blighted list.

The roof is in poor shape; it is believed to be located in a residential-urban zone of the city and near UPMC Williamsport, Gerardi said.

Committee Chairman Patrick Marty said he was familiar with the property and frequently drives by it.

A residence at 2169 Mosser Ave., one that has been damaged in a structure fire in June, 2020, was put on the list. The owner has no insurance. Boards were put up on the windows and some porch repairs were done, however, it is part of an attachment of rental/residential units.

The unit had a firewall inside that protected the adjoining properties from being damaged by the structure fire, Gerardi said.

“I’m glad it was not the center unit,” he said.

The city used some of its budget under a category of funding for codes called “Clean and Seal” funds to do maintenance such as cutting the grass and the owner had an ex-boyfriend to board up the property, Gerardi said.

A lien is on the property. Mayor Derek Slaughter recommended that the blighted properties committee review this property that lies in a residential area of Newberry, Gerardi noted.

The intent, now, is to send out the certified letters to the owners and allow them a period of time to appeal the decision. If there are no appeals, or if there are no purchases of the properties, the matter will be sent to the Redevelopment Authority and city Planning Commission for their review.

So far, there are 13 properties that are prime consideration for acquisition through a legal means established by city code.

Moreover, the Williamsport City Council recently approved a land bank that may be able to be funded using a portion of the American Rescue Plan funds the city has received and will receive in a second tranche this spring.

That will provide the cash capital for the potential purchase outright of these properties by the authority, should that be the course of action. The land bank would have the option to use a “trump” bid that would reserve the property for the city to bid on and potentially take for redevelopment or a demolition request or it could be turned over to a certified developer to repurpose.

The land bank has not received the allocation of the American Rescue Plan funds.

Council has looked closer at $2.3 million from ARPA for the land bank.

Slaughter said that mitigation of blight determined at various residential, commercial and industrial properties was among a priority of his administration.

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