With leaders and subcommittees in place, the city of Frederick’s newly formed Property Revitalization Committee is ready to address the city’s blighted and problem properties once and for all.

The eight-member ad hoc committee, which Mayor Randy McClement appointed, held its inaugural meeting Monday. The committee is the third formed to address vacant and blighted properties within the city. This time, the mission is about more than just blight.

“I don’t think we’re at that place anymore,” Nikki Bamonti, the mayor’s executive assistant, said of the concerted decision officials made to remove the word blight from the committee’s name.

The last committee, called the Blighted and Vacant Property Ad Hoc Committee, formed in January 2016 and met through June. The group was a revival of the first blight committee, which formed in 2012. Both groups were tasked with identifying ways to address blight and vacancy in the city.

The first group came up with a series of recommendations, some of which were implemented and some that fell by the wayside, prompting the creation of the second group. The Property Revitalization Committee is a group of fresh faces with a set of short- and long-term goals.

The short-term goals include identifying metrics for monitoring the progress of the city’s revitalization of underused and vacant properties and working with staff members to determine hurdles to gain compliance with problem properties.

In the long term, they include annually analyzing the city’s progress on properties and recommending properties for the blighted property and property watch lists.

At Monday’s meeting, members tossed around initial ideas for how to address some of the goals.

Committee member Tony Checchia, a commercial real estate broker, suggested taking a more positive approach to addressing property issues than the previous groups did.

“We can spend an awful lot of time focusing on the bad eggs or we can focus on the good eggs by rewarding them,” he said.

Checchia recognized that some property owners need a push to address code violations and agreed with other committee members that city officials might need to take a different approach to dealing with them. He suggested looking into changing the rules so property owners are not permitted to leave properties vacant; he said that’s where many problems exist.

Committee member Noel Manolo, a land-use attorney with Miles & Stockbridge, pointed out the importance of drawing a line between blight and vacancy and said addressing vacancy is an important goal.

He also warned against readdressing ground that the previous committees covered.

“This is a pretty robust list of things these folks came up with,” Manolo said about the last committee’s list of recommendations.

“My fear is sort of reassigning old ground,” he continued. ”Are there some big-ticket properties that have been on the forefront? We don’t want to be a solution chasing a problem that isn’t easy to identify.”

The group also viewed the latest updates to the city’s blighted property and property watch lists. The list started in 2014 with 30 properties.

Since the last update in December, one property at 109 W. South St. was removed. The list is now down to eight.

Bamonti also tasked committee members with looking around their neighborhoods and identifying blighted properties.

“I want everybody to look in their neighborhoods, or around where they work, and find properties that they may see as blighted and bring that to us to go through the process,” Bamonti said of the steps city staff members take to list properties on the blight lists.

The homework will help committee members learn how the city’s code enforcement team works and what it takes for a property to earn the title of “blighted,” which might not be what some people think. It might also help officials identify new problem properties they may have missed, she said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, committee members appointed Checchia as chairman, and Jennifer Grove, a residential real estate broker, as vice chairwoman.

Members were appointed to three subcommittees — metrics and hurdles, beautification, and training and awards — and set a meeting schedule. Meetings are slated for 3 p.m. the first Monday of every month, with the next meeting set for May 1.

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(11) comments

Dwasserba

"He (Checchia) suggested looking into changing the rules so property owners are not permitted to leave properties vacant;" ☆ good idea ☆

Whatsup

This almost seems like a laugh in the making. The third committee to address nearly the same things? Just use a different name? I wish you luck. Thank you for your involvement. It would be nice to know you will not have additional hurdles in your job when you have to deal with the historic preservation rules.

kzat82

Let's start by taxing properties at a higher rate that have been vacant for more than a certain amount of time (a year?). And then maybe increase that rate every year.

public-redux

I predict every property will be rented for at least 1 day per year.

kzat82

Good theory, but the condemned properties cannot be rented until repaired. Point is that at some point in time, disrepair will come back to haunt the owner.

public-redux

You said "vacant" properties. Now you're moving the goalpost to "condemned"?

Besides, who says you can't rent a condemned property? Or did you mean a condemned property can't be occupied?

AnotherFineMess

The Dragon Lady rents condemned properties! I guess we could call that adaptive reuse?

AnotherFineMess

“We can spend an awful lot of time focusing on the bad eggs or we can focus on the good eggs by rewarding them,” ?

So are we suggesting that rather than hauling slumlords into court like that dragon whoever, we'll simply reward the neighbors for putting up with problems the slumlords create?

This committeeX3 is getting off to a really good start! ... I'm waiting for the next version... the Blightenator!

kzat82

Not that I'm defending her, but the dragon lady is seemingly meeting the bare minimum requirement for NOT being hauled into court. This committee needs to address deficiencies in the code that enable slum lords to only keep the part of the building we see looking reasonably pretty, lest we end up with a situation like the facades on S Market St. (And since the city has already enabled that...)

CDReid

They may be "ready to address the city’s blighted and problem properties once and for all," but will they be able to? After two previous, and failed committees, before them they certainly have their work cut out for themselves. All I can say is "Good luck," they're going to need it.

ddegrangejr

Hmmmm... I wonder if the city will place excessively disrespectful and rude neighbors on the blight list?

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