Independent Coalition for Our Neighborhoods

Problem Properties: Groups want better tracking of violators

Vinegar Hill Neighborhood Association President Arlene Flury and Enos Park President Michelle Ownbey are quoted in the SJR about problem properties in their neighborhoods.

The problems aren’t limited to 3 neighborhoods. ICON members hail from 17 neighborhoods, and aldermen report problem properties in all wards of Springfield.


Excerpt from the SJ-R 5/30/2017…

Neighborhoods want better crackdowns on trashy, weedy properties

by Mary Hanson

Arlene Flury has made numerous complaints over the years to the city of Springfield about nuisances in her Vinegar Hill neighborhood, most recently about discarded railroad ties in a neighbor’s yard.  Problems with dilapidated porches, discarded furniture and overgrown lawns have persisted, she said, and at times it’s been difficult to get a response from the city. “We just hope that we could get the city to be a little more speedy or take care of the problems,” Flury said.

Officials say the city’s five inspectors have been more proactive recently in looking for other violations when checking out a complaint. And new measures have gone into effect aimed at cracking down on properties that are cited again and again for overgrown weeds or piles of garbage in yards or on porches.

But Flury and members of three other neighborhood groups want to make sure those rules are being enforced. They want to track citations and violations issued to properties that continue to be problems in their neighborhoods.

“The ultimate goal is to improve the quality of homes,” said Coalition of Inner City Older Neighborhood president Carol Kneedler. “So people aren’t living next to homes that are dilapidated.”

The public works department has promised to begin sending monthly reports about progress through the system of citations, cleanup and fines on houses that neighborhood groups have reported, according to director Mark Mahoney.  “A lot of times, complaints are turned in, and people aren’t sure what happened,” Mahoney said. “There is a process, and that can be frustrating sometimes.”

Educating residents about options to get their yards cleaned up and giving them a chance to avoid a fine is important, Harris said. And most people, once they understand the rules, will follow them, he said.

Kneedler agreed and said it’s a smaller percentage of repeat offenders her neighborhood group is concerned about. Continuing to keep an eye on frequent problem properties could help.

In Enos Park, residents have seen some progress on addressing houses that aren’t maintained, according to Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association president Michelle Ownbey. The group is very proactive in reporting problems to the city and has even taken legal action against some property owners that have frequent police calls. The group buys up dilapidated or foreclosed-upon properties with the goal of rehabbing them as part of its land-banking efforts. “Part of it is we have a reputation now for being serious,” Ownbey said. But legal action can be costly and not an option for other neighborhood groups.

Improving communication with city officials about problems and tracking properties could lead to identifying new solutions, such as rental registration, Kneedler said. The goal is still the same. “My neighborhood is full of charming bungalows, with porches and rocking chairs,” Kneedler said. “When I walk my neighborhood, it’s such a pleasant experience and I want others to have that, too.”

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