CHUCKLES: FOUR WORMS IN CHURCH SERMON
CNBNEWS 2013 ARCHIVES: What is Being Done about the Blight and Housing Problems in Gloucester City (Part Two)

CNB July 2013 ARCHIVES: What is Being Done about the Blight and Housing Problems in Gloucester City (Part One)

 

EDITOR’S NOTE--Recently we published an article titled “Blight is Spreading in Gloucester City”. As a follow up to that article we wanted to know what steps the city of Gloucester has taken to fight that problem. As we dug deeper, we learned more and more about the monstrous task that the city’s Housing Office is faced with each day. 

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Gloucestercitynews.net--GLOUCESTER CITY NJ--(JULY 22 2013)Housing Officer Joseph Stecklair, said Gloucester City has an approximate 300 abandoned properties that have fallen in disrepair. According to Stecklair, his office sent out 200 letters in May to violators of Chapter 25, the Brush, Weeds and Debris law. 

Some of the violations a property owner can be cited for: 

 

-- overgrown vegetation, grass/weeds exceeding 10 inches

-- trash, fifth, obnoxious growths, garbage, junk

--dog feces not cleaned daily

-- swimming pools with stagnant water

--abandoned vehicles

--swimming pools, two feet and deeper, that do not have a grounded electric outlet for the pool filter

 

The property owner is given three days to correct the violations. If not corrected a citation is issued in the amount of $32. 

 

Furthermore the “violation notice” warns in part, “Upon the issuance of this citation if this violation is not abated within five days it will be considered a major violation and court action will be taken. The city will remove the violation and a lien will be placed on the property. Violators can be fined up to $1,000 and or imprisonment up to 90 days.”  

 

To remedy the problem the Housing Office initiates a work order, and the Public Works Department corrects the violation at the particular property. Some of the work is performed by the young men from the Summer Help Program for Kids.  The cost for this service is $200-per- hour worked. A lien can be placed on the property to collect the fine if the property owner doesn’t pay it. 

 

CNBNews filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) with the City Clerk on July 1 asking for a list of properties that have been cited for violation of Chapter 25, along with the amount of fines for the following years:

 

(Mar. To Nov. 2009) 50 property owners, total fines and liens  $24,382

(Jan. To Nov. 2010) 102 property owners, total fines and liens $35,870

(Jan. To Dec. 2011) 122 property owners, total fines and liens $84,291

(Feb. To Nov. 2012) 133 property owners, total fines and liens $80,354

(Jan. To June 2013)  60 Property owners, total fines and liens $22,758

 

 

“The number of abandon properties keeps rising. People are leaving their homes sometimes in the middle of the night. They can’t pay the mortgage payment, so they just leave,” said Stecklair.

 

“According to the politicians in Washington DC the housing problem is improving,” Stecklair said. “I don’t see that happening in Gloucester City yet, but I remain optimistic.” 

 

He said PSG&E notifies his office each month about the number of properties that will have their service cut off for not paying the gas and electric bill. 

 

“The most recent notice from the company listed 102 properties,” he said. “As a result, some people who have had their electric turned off are stealing an electric meter from a nearby neighbor’s house.”   

 

He also mentioned that his office has noticed a large infestation of bed bugs and roaches in some neighborhoods. To help cut down on this problem the city now requires the public to place any discarded furniture in a bag before placing it on the curb for trash pickup.

 

 “The city provides the bag. They have to contact the Public Works Department (456-0781) to obtain one,” he said.

 

On February 28, 2013, Gloucester City Council passed a new vacant property ordinance aimed at owners of abandoned properties. Effective July 1, 2013, the new law requires the owner of an abandoned property to pay a registration fee of $500. The owner is required to renew the registration annually as long as the building remains vacant. The fine for failure to register the property ranges between $500 and $1,000.

 

Nearby Westville passed a similar ordinance that takes effect August 1. Under the new law, the first registration fee costs $500, with that amount tripling, to $1,500, for the first renewal. The second annual registration renewal will cost vacant and abandoned property owners $3,000, and every subsequent renewal after that will cost $5,000. The proceeds from the fines will be added to the borough’s general fund. There are approximately 30 foreclosed or abandoned properties in Westville.

 

 NOTE--In the next article we will relate a story from a property owner who claims employees from the housing office have been harassing him for 15 years for not maintaining his property. We will also include a response to that accusation (s) from Housing Officer Joe Stecklair. 

 

 

 

 

Comments

1
moiracleary said...

How hard is this. Let the banks foreclose and resale the homes. If they are abandoned.they are abandoned/

 
 
2
taxpayer said...

"new law requires the owner of an abandoned property to pay a registration fee of $500"
Is this a joke? So people are moving out of their homes in the middle of the night because they don't have financial means to keep their home. So Stecklair expects them to register their abandonment??? I am the only one that thinks this is bizarre?

 
 
3
Questions said...

How much does it cost for a permit to demolish a building?

What reqirements does the city place on demolition?

If Stecklair is involved it has to be complicated and over regulated.

 
 
4
Gouging???? said...

What justifies a $200.00/per hour rate for work performed by a kid receiving minimum wage that is being provided by the state?

 
 
5
Interested said...

I certainly hope that we the readers are provided with the definition of the phrase "abandon[ed] housing" before we begin to read the articles. Also the source of that definition.

 
 
6
It's important said...

Please show us Joe Stecklair's definition of "blight".

To date that has been a moving target subject to his relationship with the receiver of his citations.

Whenever a political crony says "trust me" you better hold on and hold your breath.

 
 
7
CNBNewsnet said...

Hi Moira--People are having trouble selling their home/property. Some of these properties are over priced, the owner purchased the home before the real estate crash. They owe more than the property is worth. As a result some of these individuals have just abandon it. The mortgage holder (bank) has the same problem trying to sell it. So it just sits. It becomes an easy target for vandals, and is a blight on the neighborhood. Love, cousin Bill


Question 2--The $500 fee is being levied against the mortgage holder (bank) or the landlord, the owner of the property. For example, We had friends who left their Morris Street home and are now living in Bellmawr. They couldn’t sell their property so they claimed bankruptcy. Today that boarded up property, along with four others in that neighbor, are all empty. Look at what Westville is charging...the first registration fee costs $500, with that amount tripling, to $1,500, for the first renewal. The second annual registration renewal will cost vacant and abandoned property owners $3,000, and every subsequent renewal after that will cost $5,000.

Question 3. As for the cost to demolish a property, call the Housing Office

Question 4--The rate is high, I was told, to encourage the banks and others who own the abandoned properties, to cut the grass and to maintain them. If they don’t a lien is placed against the property.

Question 5--I don’t understand your repeated question. If no one is living in the property it has been abandon (ed). Dictionary definition of abandon (verb) -desert, leave, leave high and dry, turn one's back on, cast aside, break (up) with; jilt, strand, leave stranded, leave in the lurch, throw over; informal walk out on, run out on, dump, ditch; literary forsake.

Question 6-I said to Stecklair these homes are a blight on a neighborhood. He agreed. The dictionary definition of blight (noun) neglected, or rundown condition of an urban area: the depressing urban blight that lies to the south of the city.

What is your point?

Bill

 
 
8
reader said...

Still no restaurant on the pier, still no developement in the industrial park, still no middle school, still no sale at chathum square,still no jobs, still no explanation. Mix all that with 300 abandoned homes plus vacant homes and a spiriling debt and what do you have, Gloucester City.

 
 
9
answer said in reply to reader...

a getto!

 
 
10
My point said...

Re; Comment #7 Question #6

If you or Joe Stecklair have the authority to cite and penalize property owners for blight what is your definition that you will submit to a third party in the case of a disputed determination between you or Joe Stecklair and the property owner.

Do you expect that if you hand the Judge a dictionary with a list of subjective term and definitions he/she should rule in your favor?

I would argue that there needs to be a list of minimum objective requirements that you can submit to the alleged violator along with a reasonable and provable amount of time to meet the standard that you or Joe Stecklair set.

I would also argue that you or Joe Stecklair should be able to demonstrate that you have started prosecuting the most severe cases of blight first thereby allowing the more subjective decisions to eliminate themselves by widely publicizing the most significant offenses.

I would submit that if you or Joe Stecklair did as I suggest above it would significantly diminish the use of subjective criteria and/or political motivation from the process.

I see no need or productive motive in charging a $500 fee to attack blight. I believe an objective standard and uniform enfocement along with reasonable penalties starting with the worst 10% will solve the problem.

What is you point in stopping with a dictionary?

 
 
11
What If said...

Mr. Cleary,

What if a property is unoccupied but is in no worse condition on the exterior than any other property in that neighborhood?

What if it could also pass an exterior CO inspection?

What if the property meets the previous two criteria but is being rehabed on the interior should it be considered abandoned if all taxes and utilities are paid?

What if a property owner needs a thousand dollars to improve the interior of the aforementioned property should he/she be rquired to give up half of that one thousand dollars to the city while receiving no tangible benefit in return?

 
 
12
CNBNewsnet said...

Check out the photos in this article http://www.gloucestercitynews.net/clearysnotebook/2013/05/sylvan-avenue-corner-property-trash-debris-grass-over-10-inches-high-by-bill-clearycnbnewsnet-east-thompson-ave.html

That is what I am talking about,.

That is what I call blight/abandoned properties.

You can ride through the city and find properties like those pictured in almost every neighborhood.

Those kind of properties were the focus of my article (s).

Apparently you feel I didn't ask the right questions.

I'll try and do a better job the next time.

 

 
 
13
CNBNewsnet said...

PS

Here is some more information that may be of some to you.

http://www.cityofgloucester.org/documents/C87Chapter66PropertyMaintenance%20.pdf

 
 
14
reader said...

Lets go back a few months when a mr diaz a homeless man,was living in an abandoned house on market st when he set the place on fire. It destroyed two homes and scorched the home next to it. Thank god no one was hurt. My point is, we all know what blight is and we all have ideas as to how to try to fix it,but it can also be a very dangerous problem to the city and neighborhoods as in the market st fire. So instead of arguing about definitions how about discussing possible solutions. I believe the registration fee is aimed more at the banks who own abandoned houses yet do not keep them up. I live next to such a home,the first bank that owned it cut the grass once in two and a half years i cut it once every two weeks for that time because it became an eye soar,i also had the police pull a few drug addicts out of it on a couple occasions before the city boarded it up. Now it was sold to another bank and that bank has someone come twice a month to cut the grass and to inspect the inside. It could be cleaned up a bit more but for now it is no long the eyesoar it was. So solutions can be found if we all start working togather to fix the problem, lets face it the government has its own agenda and unless we the people come up with something it will get worse before it gets better.

 
 
15
Nameplates said...

#9 - Ghetto is how it's spelled,. However, I can partially agree with your assessment. Personally I know that high weeds, trash surely breed insects,vermin and blight.
I think that's being addressed. The Vacant Property Ordinance has to be rewritten to be more aggressive to those who those fines would be meek to the banks and deeper pocketed slum lords, while unfairly hurting start up Home Owners and the better land lords and banks who would comply and potentially invest more in Gloucester City. A fair n balanced Ordinance needs to be written and higher fees for those who are the real problem.

 
 
16
Housing Department said in reply to CNBNewsnet...

Interesting that the Gloucester City Code calls for 30 days to abate the source of a complaint but Mr. Stecklair gives 3-5 days on his notices. Are we after improvement or just fines?

 
 
17
Disgusting... said...

What about those people in Gloucester City that have houses, have not abandoned them, continue to maintain them, pay their taxes, pay their water bills, utilities, etc. Under the "sure hand" of Mr. Stecklair's office I am sure those good owners will be paying $500 fines to avoid property liens while the banks who are already at a loss and could care less about one more lien just let them go. Pleeease, this is just more ridiculous politics of hurting hard working Gloucester City citizens while abating the responsibility of those who prey on them (the Gloucester City Administration).

 
 
18
Truth Set Aside said in reply to Housing Department...

Joe Stecklar makes far more false claims under the "color of right" than most taxpayers realize.

For the most part he goes unchallenged but even when he is caught in a "BOLD FACED LIE" he has the support of his bosses.

 
 
19
Mr. Cleary, Mr Stecklair, said in reply to Gouging????...

What can be more true than this statement!

 

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