- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 6, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - More dilapidated property is being demolished in the city on a timely basis, thanks in part to the restoration of clear communications with a state agency.

“At the state level, the problems have been worked out,” said Melissa Bailey, director of the Florence Planning Department.

The Planning Department oversees the demolition program using Community Development Block Grant money in low and moderate income neighborhoods. The program came to a standstill a year ago when city officials had trouble getting the Alabama Historical Commission to sign off on some of the demolitions. The commission sometimes requires cultural and historical studies be conducted on older structures.

“I think they experienced staffing issues,” Bailey said. “Our issue was that we could not get an answer at all. Eventually, it was staffing issues, either through attrition or growing pains.”

There were some retirements at the Historic Commission a year ago, and City Council President Dick Jordan said the department was heavily involved in research related to the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP), a massive road and bridge program.

“They were really busy with those,” Jordan said. “Plus, there was a new person they were dealing with. Melissa and her staff have done an excellent job, and found out exactly what the commission wanted.”

The blight removal program is funded with federal money the city has received for years. It is used in low to moderate income neighborhoods to demolish structures that have become blights on the neighborhoods.

“One aspect of our program that is different from what the Building Department does is that we work with the property owner and get them to sign off on what we are doing,” Bailey said. “We still get the benefit of the property being cleared, but there is no lien placed on the property, and that is a positive because they don’t have to go through the condemnation process.”

Clearing lots of dilapidated houses makes the property more attractive for redevelopment, which can allow the owner to sell it at a better price, she said.

“We want the property cleared of blight, but even if it’s vacant, it’s not back on the tax rolls,” Bailey said. “With developers, they are a little more willing to redevelop with a clear piece of property. That means they don’t have to spend the money to clear the property. We hope that is another incentive.”


Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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