Two Portlew Road residents in Newbury came looking last week for answers to blighted properties on their street, but township trustees had few answers.

Residents Robert Harmeling and Dennis Pearson appeared before trustees to learn whether they had solutions to two condemned houses at 11716 and 11708 Portlew Road. An exterior wall has collapsed on one of the homes, leaving the interior exposed.

“I don’t blame you,” Trustee Glen Quigley told the residents. “You’re looking for some action.”

Mr. Quigley said the two homes are unsafe structurally and the township has the legal authority to tear them down.

Trustee William Skomrock acknowledged that having that authority and being able to carry it out are two different things.

He said the township already has spent nearly $100,000 to clean up a property on Munn Road that was filled with junk and non-permitted buildings. Coming up with that kind of money, he said, is not something the township can do. He said trustees would have to take the issue to the ballot and hope voters approve a levy for the money needed.

“It comes right down to the money,” he said.

Fellow Trustee Greg Tropf agreed. “Where is the money coming from is the question,” he said.

Mr. Harmeling said the one property has become a dumping ground for old tires, estimating that 300 have been dumped there. He said a camera should be set up to catch the offenders. He said the one house is so dilapidated that the rest of it could collapse if someone removed a supporting piece of wood.

While the township has spent nearly $100,000 on the one property, Mr. Quigley said, the township was acting on a court order. “We had no choice,” he said.

He said the township has gone through the process to have the two houses condemned, but faces a lack of money to go further.

“It’s in my neighborhood,” Mr. Pearson told trustees. “I can’t sell my house.”

Mr. Quigley said he is aware of the impact that blighted properties can have on neighboring homes, but must follow state law in attempting to remedy them. He said the township can start by getting estimates on demolition of the homes.

Letters had been sent to property owners, but the properties now have new owners and Mr. Quigley said notice of the properties’ conditions must be sent again, essentially starting the process over.

Several years ago, Mr. Quigley said, grant money was available through the state to demolish blighted properties. The money had come from the tobacco settlement with the state. He said Newbury and other Geauga County townships had taken advantage of that money. But, he added, the funds ran dry with no replacement as of yet.

Mr. Skomrock expressed hope that the new property owners would respond differently than previous owners and remove the blighted homes themselves.

“Hopefully, they’ll be good neighbors and take care of it,” he said.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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