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Residents push township to ‘send a message’ on blight

ALPENA TOWNSHIP — The Alpena Township board was pressed on Tuesday to encourage residents to clean up property that some consider unsightly and a health risk.

A resident at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting provided the trustees with a list of addresses of properties he believes are in violation of the township’s blight ordinance. Another resident said he has noticed improvements in areas where blight was an issue, but added there are still some areas that need addressing, especially in terms of yards and lawns being unmaintained.

Al Krajniak lives on French Road and he said there are many properties along the road in disarray. He asked the board to take action against those who are not complying with township blight rules.

Not only do the properties in question drain the value of his property and others, he told the trustees, but they are also a threat to public health and to the health of those who occupy them.

“It is going to bring everyone who lives in that area’s property values down,” Krajniak said. “The conditions are bad and they have to be overrun with rats and cockroaches, so it is a health issue.”

Township Supervisor Nathan Skibbe said new and tougher ordinances passed by the board last year have, for the most part, led to fewer dilapidated properties.

“There has been a tremendous amount of progress, and we have seen a vast improvement through corrective actions,” Skibbe said. “There is still a long way to go, however, and we take these concerns seriously, and myself and the other members of the board will look into these properties.”

Skibbe added that the process to fight blight includes warnings, citations, and, eventually, the township can take the property owner to court to force action, though court can be costly for the township.

Krajniak said taking the offenders to court might be worth the money to show others the township means business.

“I would think, if you take one or two of them to court, it would send a message to the rest,” he said. “Something needs to be done. It is getting bad, and it is a health hazard.”

Skibbe said the township has taken violators to court three times and come out victorious twice.

Gary Partika is one of the original members of the South Bay group formed to clean and develop the U.S.-23 South corridor in the township. He said progress has been made against blight, but there are still properties that need to be cleaned up.

“There has been some improvement, but we gave the township lists of some properties in 2012, under the old administration, and some of those places have not been addressed, yet,” Partika said. “I think the township needs to be more aggressive and go after these people. I feel like they could be doing more.”

Skibbe said Partika and others have requested a lawn ordinance that would regulate the length of grass allowed and the conditions of people’s yards. That may work in places like Alpena, Skibbe said, but policing township lawns is not as simple.

“We have farms, agriculture, and forest areas that are in more rural areas, where one size doesn’t fit all,” Skibbe said. “There are many places in the township where blight and yards aren’t an issue, and there are areas where it is. It is not widespread, however. We will address the issues if and when they don’t meet our standards.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.

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