What is the Blight?
Blight is anything that detracts from the appearance of the Borough as a nice place to live and work. It might be an old burned-out building, overgrown weeds in an abandoned lot, or simply trash that was thoughtlessly tossed on the street.
It is important to distinguish between abandoned and vacant property. Vacant property may be up for sale or rent. It has a known owner and is being maintained. Abandoned property has been walked away from. The owner may or may not be known. No one lives there and no attempt is being made to rent, sell, demolish or fix up the property.
What the Borough Can't Do
The Borough can't tear down abandoned or burned-out buildings it doesn't own.
When someone walks away from their property, it becomes the Borough's problem, but unfortunately, that doesn't make the Borough the owner. There are many legal hoops to jump through before the Borough can take ownership of any abandoned property. We can't just confiscate it.
The Borough can't clean up after anyone who doesn't maintain their property or who abandons it. We have a terrific street department. For a handful of guys, they do an enormous amount of work. They do everything from cleaning and maintaining catch basins, to repairing our streets, to picking up trash from city containers to snow plowing and salting in the winter to maintaining the Borough Building. But they cannot cut grass and weeds on private property just because it looks bad. We have neither the manpower nor the financial wherewithal to have the street department cleaning up after irresponsible residents.
What the Borough Can Do
The Borough recently hired a full-time Building Inspector and a full-time Code-Enforcement officer.
These two individuals are the front-line in our fight against blight. Their jobs are to make sure the buildings in town are safe and up to state and federal code and that Borough Ordinances, designed to keep residents safe and the town nice, are enforced.
In August, we held a Town Hall Meeting in conjunction with the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation (CDC) to discuss the problems with Residents and update you on our efforts.
The Borough and the CDC are working to identify every abandoned property in The Rocks. We hope to identify the current legal owner and tax status of each of these properties. We are then notifying these owners of unsafe property conditions, code violations, and past due taxes. They are being given the legally required amount of time to comply before we take action against them, whether it be fines or citations or failure to pay or proceedings to sell the property for back taxes.
We are working with developers to allow them to take title to these properties and either repair or demolish them and build new structures. The Borough cannot afford to be responsible for demolishing all the properties that should be demolished. We believe a public/private partnership is a better solution.
Both Key Bank and Dollar Bank spoke at our Town Hall to tell residents about programs they have available to help renters become homeowners. As these older properties are rehabbed or new properties built in their place, we want to encourage our renters to become invested in the community as homeowners.
Additional efforts by the Borough include instituting inspections for all rental units and reorganizing and streamlining the landlord ordinances into one cohesive ordinance. The landlord ordinance is in the process of being approved and will be advertised in its entirety in October or November of 2018. The Borough has also started a comprehensive zoning rewrite in conjunction with Neville Island. This effort will also be published for the public when completed.
How You Can Help
Have you identified blight? You can fill out the PROPERTY COMPLAINT FORM - When you see a property that is clearly in violation of Borough Ordinances, ie. overgrown with weeds, broken down fences, a torn up sidewalk, etc, report it. You can remain anonymous if you want. You may not hear anything back, but please be assured that our Code Enforcement Officer is reviewing every single complaint form. You must use the complaint form. The office will not take verbal complaints.
You can help us IDENTIFY THE OWNERS OF ABANDONED BUILDINGS - If you know something about the history of an abandoned or blighted property in town, please share that information with us. We are looking for anything you can tell us that might help us identify who is currently responsible for maintaining the property and paying the taxes. One of the most frustrating things for us is not being able to track down a property owner. If we can't show at least some effort to contact the owner, we can't move forward on dealing with the property. Because many residents have lived here for a long time, you know better than anyone else who used to be your neighbors and what happened to them. Did they die? When? Did they go into a Nursing Home? Where? Do they have any adult children? Do you know their names?
We ask for your name and contact information on this form only so that we can contact you if we have follow-up questions. Your name will never be revealed to the property owner.
Don't walk away from a blight problem - It's not just that it's an irresponsible thing to do, it could cost you more in the end!
Sometimes people inherit property they don't want. Or something happens to a property they own and they just can't afford to fix it up or tear it down. In these cases, people think they can just "walk away" from the property and that's the end of it. But it's not. You've just inflicted your headache on your friends and neighbors — and maybe caused an even bigger headache for yourself.
You still owe property taxes on that property to the County, to the Borough, and to the School District. Every year you don't pay, you accumulate penalties on top of the taxes owed. The Borough is now making all efforts to track down delinquent property owners and take them to court for any taxes owed.
You are still responsible for that property's upkeep or for having it demolished. Even if its demolished, you are responsible for the upkeep of the vacant lot. You will be cited for violations and those citations will continue to accumulate and the fines will continue to grow. You could find out there's a warrant for your arrest someday for ignoring those citations. At the very least you could find yourself in court being ordered to demolish the property and take care of the land.
The better answer is to contact the Community Development Center and see if you can make arrangements to turn your property over to them or another non-profit who would then be responsible for getting it demolished or repaired. They might even be able to help you get a little money or a tax write-off for it. Isn't that better than being dragged to court or to jail?
If you are a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining your property in a good and safe condition.
This includes your sidewalks and yard. Anything you can do to keep your property neat and tidy and in good repair helps everyone. For a list of the most common violations that people are cited for, see the Ordinances page.
If you are a renter, it is usually your landlord's responsibility to maintain the property, unless you have made other arrangements such as cutting the grass in return for reduced rent. If your landlord is not maintaining the property, you can file a complaint against them using the same form as for any other code violation. If there are conditions that are unsafe or outright dangerous, such as exposed wiring, lack of hot water, vermin, etc. you should definitely put in a complaint form. The Code Enforcement Officer will turn the matter over to the Building Inspector, who will take the landlord to court if necessary.
If you are a homeowner who needs help, either financially or physically, in maintaining your property, fill out the ___ form requesting assistance.
We can't promise we'll get you what you need but we can promise we'll look into it. These forms are passed on to the CDC, who partners with various government and non-profit agencies throughout the region and the county to provide assistance to those who are in need. sometimes there is money available for small repairs. sometimes we have teams of college student volunteers working on their break and helping with repairs. Often, these opportunities come up suddenly and if we know we can use the funds or volunteers we can get them. But if we don't have an identified need the opportunity may pass us by. So we can't promise it will happen tomorrow, but there is a very good chance you will get the help you need patching and painting or trimming bushes or even patching a sidewalk.
If you are fortunate enough to be in good health, lend a hand to those who aren't.
We have a lot of elderly people in our community as well as those with physical limitations. Be a good neighbor and offer to weed their flower bed or pick up the litter someone threw in their yard. It will make you feel good, it will make your whole street look better and you just might find yourself on the receiving end of a plate of cookies!
We know its not your responsibility to pick up after thoughtless people but it sure helps when people are willing to.
Check your yard for litter every day. Yes, people toss litter in other people's yards. It's irresponsible and rude but they do it anyway. If you see litter in your neighbor's yard, pick that up too. If you are out walking your dog and see litter, make the extra effort to pick it up. If someone doesn't pick up after their dog and you have doggie poop bags, pick up after that thoughtless person. A little help goes a long way.