Urban Blight Crackdown

By: Dave Benton Email
By: Dave Benton Email

Cleaning up urban blight is one of the biggest challenges our local cities face, but the trashy problem has gotten way out of hand in one city.

There is a major crackdown on an urban plague that affects many more than the violating homeowners.

There are health issues, property values and neighborhood feuds that can escalate into expensive court cases or violent actions.

In Portsmouth, they're putting some bite into a zero tolerance policy on garbage and trash.

The Portsmouth Health Department is leading the push to get hundreds of trashed out properties cleaned up.

The violators include dozens of homes with overgrown lawns and yards.

The problem includes illegal dumps that continue to grow and fester in the summer heat and many rental properties have trash and garbage accumulated to unhealthy and ridiculous levels.

The health department director said stepping up enforcement of blight laws already on the books will take some courthouse cooperation, so they'll start with some test cases.

One of the targeted homes belongs to Portsmouth City Council candidate Wayne Nichols blight inspectors said Nichols dragged his feet for months in cleaning up his Eighth Street property.

The candidate said he's disabled and doing the best he can.

Nichols and others will face fines and court costs of more than $100 for the first offense.

Each day in non compliance can be considered a separate offense and multiple violations can be sited at one place.

This means fines could stretch into thousands of dollars, but one of the biggest challenges in Portsmouth and many other cites is just finding and contacting out of town property owners.

Portsmouth renters cited for a blight violation will be cited, not the owners, but property owners not keeping their homes and yards up to code can be fined.

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