The paradigm of neglected property hurts communities

(Journal stock photo.)

Unfortunately, our small, rural towns are plagued with abandoned, neglected, vacant properties that are being left to crumble into sidewalks and streets of our thoroughfares. Owned by absentee as well as local residents, these are among the top obstacles to a small town’s viability.

There are the obvious unsightly affairs that come about due to neglected properties—these leviathans of grief invite critters, both nasty and dangerous, as well as crime and lower property values. The owners of these properties have more control than they deserve, lowering not only their own property value but the value of properties around them as well. And in our tiny towns and cities, these dilapidated properties on the main streets lower values of the entire community.

Letters to do something about it can often go ignored with many of our towns and cities without a means to enforce the very things that could bring their community back up out of the ashes to a satisfactory splendor.

When you do succeed in getting an interest in placing a business in your community, you cannot find a place for them to go. The properties, often in need of a new roof, have been uncared for since the owner purchased the property twenty years ago or more; and they want to sell it for the same thing they gave for it. Helpful of them not to try to make a profit.

So many tiny towns and cities that cannot afford the proper enforcement capability could be invigorated with a state law that would allow them the ability to clean themselves up.

Currently, neglectful owners of abandoned, vacant, dilapidating property hang on to these properties, refusing to sell; refusing to maintain—holding their communities hostage. To enjoy and maintain a stranglehold on communities in which their properties are located is a problem that blights most small towns and we later read about these communities sliding down into dust.

I mentioned a state law to enable tiny towns and cities to enforce something positive upon these properties. You are probably thinking, there are already statutes, ordinances, and codes. You need a community of Boy Scouts for these to be addressed as they are meant to be; but we need a state law specifically designed to allow a community to take care of their own livelihoods.

Right now there are a multitude of properties in Buffalo, Oklahoma, that have gone three years unpaid taxes. Some of these need a dozer. But, according to law, none of them can actually be seized (purchased) until June 2022. Furthermore, the neglectful owner can go in before the June 22 sale and pay one year—year No. 1—and skate again. This is not conducive to a community’s ability to be involved in their own vibrancy.

—James Leonard is the economic development coordinator at Buffalo, Oklahoma. He can be reached by phone at 580-73502030 or by email at [email protected].