Rutland takes on urban blight - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Rutland takes on urban blight

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"It has been an eyesore," said Lea Gilman, who lives next to a vacant home on Library Avenue in Rutland City. But the city is cracking down on these blighted properties and dishing out more than 100 tickets.

"Broken windows, broken doors, frames, rotten siding, rotting porches, missing handrails, garbage in the yard..." said Jim Simonds with the City of Rutland.

The list goes on for items that homeowners can be written up for. For now, the city is only ticketing vacant homes, and five properties in the northwestern section are being targeted. Officials said homeowner neglect means the homes have deteriorated into some of the worst conditions in the city.

"The ultimate goal of this... ...would be to change the ownership of that property and to try and incentivize a new owner to come forward and take possession of that and get it back into a habitable condition," said Brennan Duffy with the Rutland Development Authority.

Homeowners of blighted properties are issued an ordinance violation.  If the owner doesn't respond within 30-days, the tickets begin at $50. If not paid or appealed, the price jumps to more than $500. Homeowners will continue to be ticketed daily until they respond.

"We have been issuing up to 50 tickets per house. Which turns into $25,000 if not paid in a timely manner," Simonds said.

If a ticketed homeowner does not come forward and pay the bill, the house can go up for a tax sale. Then, if the year long redemption period passes, the property ownership would change hands -- which some neighbors are looking forward to.

"I hope they can fix them up and nice people will end up buying the places," Lea Gilman said.

City officials said cleaning up vacant homes is just the first step, and they hope the program will be used throughout the city one day.

WCAX reached out to homeowners who are currently being ticketed -- including out-of-state banks, but did not get a response.

A meeting on May 15th will discuss a vacant property ordinance aimed at regulating blighted homes.

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