If you’re seeing less blight around Hillsboro, Phil Lutton’s work is paying off.
The city code enforcement officer went before Hillsboro City Council Monday for his first monthly blight report, demonstrating the work he and other city officials have done in the past few weeks to tackle blighted properties around town.
Lutton showed before-and-after photos of 127 W. Josie St., 159 Chillicothe Ave., 233 N. West St., 258 John St. and the building adjacent to the Parker House where a wall had collapsed. Whether through cleanup or demolition, Lutton said, those properties are no longer a problem.
Next in line, he said, is a vacant home at 550 John St., as well as construction blight at 264 W. Walnut.
Lutton said nuisance properties are often more dangerous than they are unsightly, describing vacant structures as “dangerous, attractive nuisances,” since vacant properties can attract criminal activity and are often structurally unsafe.
“It’s a blessing we haven’t had something happen,” he said.
While he has his own list of the worst blighted properties around town, Lutton said he’s open to hearing from the public about areas that need attention. Lutton said he can be reached by calling the city administration office at 937-393-5219.
During public comment, local resident Stacy Gilbert said she was in an accident April 27 while backing out of her driveway onto West Main Street near a curve. Gilbert expressed concern that the speed limit is rarely acknowledged in the area. Interim Hillsboro Police Chief Steve Browder said he will have the police department conduct extra speeding enforcement there, and Dick Donley, sitting in for council president Lee Koogler, moved the issue to council’s street and safety committee.
Also during public comment, local resident Richard Stiffler asked council to look into allowing bow hunters to hunt deer within city limits due to overpopulation, and Donley moved the issue to the street and safety committee as well.
Joe Mahan, president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association, asked council’s permission to hold HUBA’s annual Christmas parade on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. Council approved the matter. Mahan said this year’s theme will be “Christmas Movies,” a theme selected by a Facebook poll asking Hillsboro residents to choose between “Disney Christmas,” “Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Christmas Around the World” and “Christmas Movies.”
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings expressed disappointment that HUBA would not be choosing “Mountain Dew Christmas” as the theme, but deferred to the high volume of Facebook feedback in favor of “Christmas Movies.”
In his report, Hastings estimated about 100 or 150 people toured Bell’s Opera House recently for HUBA’S First Friday event. Hastings said he hopes the tour will happen again in June.
Hastings said he attended a recent economic development summit at Southern State Community College where the city’s blight policy came up. Hastings said the it seemed to interest the other officials who were present.
“You could tell it was on a lot of peoples’ radars,” he said.
Hastings congratulated Mel McKenzie on his hiring as the city’s new safety and service director, as reported previously in The Times-Gazette. Hastings thanked interim SSD Gary Silcott for his services over the past few months. Hastings said Silcott will have several meetings with McKenzie, and continue to serve the city as a vendor.
The city is working with The Montrose Group to review the structure and benefits of a downtown redevelopment district, Hastings said, and he is currently working on putting a committee together for focused discussion.
Hastings said he has also been pursuing the idea of re-purposing the city’s old tennis courts as a skate park.
The mayor said he will have more news next month on the future use of the city’s old water plant property, as well as possible city trash collection changes.
In the safety and service director’s report, Silcott said the city has awarded a bid to a contractor for the demolition of the rear of the Colony Theater. He said he hopes demolition and cleanup will be completed in June.
Silcott also said the city has sent letters to property owners affected by city sidewalk projects that will require assessments on their property taxes. Silcott said the city will need $125,000 in assessment revenue, which will be collected over the course of five years if the property owners agree.
The city is also applying for an ODNR grant for a new restroom facility at Harmony Lake, Silcott said.
Hastings reported the Hillsboro Planning Commission heard from the Highland County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Highland County Community Action about possible housing developments for those will developmental disabilities in Hillsboro and other Highland County communities.
“It was kind of a hot-bed topic,” he said, saying several of those present were “passionate,” both for and against the development. He said there will be further discussion at the next planning commission meeting May 15.
During the property maintenance committee report, council approved two sign variances and updated vacant property ordinances. Council also passed routine financial resolutions.
All council members were present except Koogler, whose absence was excused due to illness.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.