Austintown zoning set to fight blight

By Susan Tebben

With a funding source finally in use, Austintown officials are starting again the process of removing blight from neighborhoods throughout the township.

There are 11 homes that need to be demolished, according to zoning inspector Darren Crivelli. Some of the homes have been vacant and in need of demolition for years. Funding has been in short supply, despite the township’s desire to remove the vacant and rundown homes.

“The trustees have been very aggressive in acting on these nuisance complaints,” Crivelli said. “We’ve had good success with the [Mahoning County] board of health and fire inspectors in condemning these properties.”

Two houses – 4228 Crum Road and 5430 W. Rockwell Road – have been slated to be demolished since 2011, until the $25,000 demolition budget was used up and they were left on the list. In April, Crivelli said the demolitions would be done by June 2012. But obtaining a grant for the demolition of those and other structures slowed the demolition process.

“We’re very close to getting the money,” said township Trustee Lisa Oles. “We’re anxious to demolish the [identified] properties because we certainly don’t want any blight in the communities.”

In August, Mahoning County received $1.5 million as part of a Moving Ohio Forward grant program created by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Austintown received $75,000, Crivelli said, which is expected to fund all the demolitions for the year. “We do all the field work, and then we are reimbursed by the grant,” Crivelli said.

The sites that are inspected, condemned and demolished are found largely through complaints by neighbors. After a complaint is filed, the building inspector, fire inspector or board of health do an inspection, and environmental inspections are done on the house to determine how to safely demolish the structure.

“Once that’s all done, the trustees have to do a resolution, and we run a notice in the newspaper,” Crivelli said. “We also provide a hearing as a safeguard if the owner wants it. We expect them to have a plan at the hearings to rehabilitate.”

The Rockwell property is set to be demolished “any day,” according to Crivelli, and other properties are either waiting on bids to contract out demolition or on environmental inspections. Properties at 202 Idlewood, 3980 Nassau Court, 133 and 1029 Ohltown Road, 130 Third St. and 5490 Lou Ida Boulevard are all on the list to be bid out, demolished or posted for public notice of demolition.

Two properties – 207 and 252 Four Mile Run Road – are properties that have been intended for demolition since last year, but demolition is stalled because the county was going to demolish them with monies from the state’s Neighborhood Stabilization Fund. Crivelli had hoped to have them down by the end of last summer as well.

“I’m optimistic Mahoning County will demolish them, but if they can’t find the funds, we’ll [the township] tear them down ourselves,” Crivelli said.

Crivelli said neither he nor the county had put a deadline on demolishing the Four Mile Run Road houses or deciding which agency would do it.

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