PRINCETON — Dilapidated structures that reduce property values and make Mercer County less appealing to businesses and visitors alike are the focus of an ordinance being discussed by the Mercer County Commission.
Commission Greg Puckett said after the commission’s December meeting that the Mercer County Planning Commission has been reviewing a sample dilapidated structures ordinance over the last several months. He told County Commission President Gene Buckner and Commissioner Bill Archer that the plan is to have a planning commission meeting in December, then give the county commission a proposed ordinance to review during its January 2021 meeting.
Buckner said during the Dec. 8 meeting that the Raleigh County Commission has implemented its own dilapidated building ordinance, and has started tearing structures down.
“We’re going to get phone calls, so I understand that you have a planning commission meeting coming up,” Buckner told Puckett.
Puckett said first that the planning commission planned to meet on Dec. 17, but County Administrator Vicky Reed then told the commissioners that one of its members, Will Stafford, could not attend that day. Stafford was providing the commission with alternative dates. Puckett said the goal was to have the meeting this month.
“We’ve looked at a dilapidated structures ordinance literally for two years; actually, it goes back two and a half years,” Puckett said. “We started this discussion when we reconstituted the planning commission, and one of the major things that we wanted to do was to establish an opportunity to hold additional accountability in terms of our dilapidated structures and making sure that any new things got built in a certain fashion to where they could be upheld to a certain code just to make sure that we don’t have this problem long term. And you know, it’s been in the hands of some attorneys over the last six to eight months, and I believe we’re going to get some resolution out of that soon.”
Puckett said that tearing down all old structures is not the proposed ordinance’s goal.
“The goal is to make sure we’re not going to be putting a hindrance on anybody, maybe out in our farming communities,” he told the other commissioners. “That’s not what we’re looking for. We’ve made that very clear that we’re not looking to worry about barns or worried about any of those kind of structures that may be falling down on a rural piece of property.”
An ordinance would help the county take action when dilapidated structures become a problem in a community, Puckett said.
“We’ve got a serious problem with dilapidated structures in Mercer County. We’ve got to come up with an ordinance that holds the landowner accountable. Part of that is possibly even putting, like Raleigh County does, putting a lien on the facilities, trying to make sure the owner is accountable,” Puckett stated. “We would have the opportunity to raze that and then put that lien on to make sure that owner is accountable.”
The planning commission meeting could be held on Zoom and the commission’s Facebook page when a date is set.
“The goal is to meet in December. We really, really need to move on this,” Puckett said.
“I agree,” Buckner added.
“It’s been way too long,” Puckett continued. “We’ve got to move on this. I think what this does, this puts us in the process to do what Raleigh County does. They have a system in place with a board of zoning appeals. They have a system where they look at particular structures within a county. They say okay, are we going to be able to hold people accountable over a long period of time, how can you get this problem out of your community, because we know it devalues every property.”
Removing dilapidated structures would help property owners living near them.
“And if we get rid of these, especially in areas over on our western side like down in Matoaka, Lorton Lick, McComas, Spanishburg, all those areas that are having a lot of these dilapidated issue problems, then the property values go up; and when the property values go up, everybody benefits,” Puckett said.
Puckett later said that razing such structures is an important part of Mercer County’s economic development, too.
“We have to have greater accountability in our county if we are to grow economically,” he stated. “We cannot sit by and wait for businesses to come here or tourists to take away a negative image of our community.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline. com