County Blight Committee Will Take Action In 2019

December 31, 2018

Luzerne County’s blighted property review committee will start to take action in 2019, according to committee chairman Harry Haas.

The committee, formed in 2016, has spent two years preparing to compile a database of blighted properties in the county’s townships and boroughs. Now it is finally accepting applications from municipal officials who want to add properties to the database, according to Haas, a county councilman.

“The word has gotten out” following workshops the committee held late last year, Haas said.

The workshops helped clear up misconceptions about the process of declaring a property to be blighted, according to Haas. For one thing, rundown but occupied structures with neglectful tenants or owners do not qualify.

“The biggest thing is it deals strictly with vacant properties ... that are significantly dilapidated,” Haas said.

While the committee is accepting applications, it could be months or even next year before properties are added to the database, according to Haas.

“It’s a lengthy process,” he said. “That is done on purpose. If it comes to that stage everything is going to be tried and exhausted.”

Here is how the process works:

It starts with local officials submitting a property referral form to the committee.

If the committee decides the property meets the criteria for blight, it will issue a warning to the property owner. If the owner does not comply, a series of hearings will be scheduled. If the alleged violations are not addressed by the end of the hearings, the property can be added to the blighted property database.

The case will then proceed to the county redevelopment authority, which provides administrative and legal assistance to the committee, for potential action.

“No one is expecting we are going to eradicate blight from the county,” Haas said. “But this gives municipalities a helping hand, to get rid of some real eyesores.”

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