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Opinion, Uncategorized

City’s foreclosure vote a good step

| Staff Reporters
Last week, we reported on the Crestview City Council voting to move forward with foreclosure proceedings on 15 properties that have accrued tens of thousands of dollars in fines if not more for not being in compliance with city codes and make no effort to get into compliance or communicate their intentions to do so with the city.

City leaders don’t want to foreclose on properties, but we applaud their efforts to combat blight in the community.

City staff have been reaching out to property owners for months if not years on some of these cases telling them what steps need to be taken to get their property into compliance with city codes. As that’s been going on, fines have been adding up to the point where the fines on some of the fine totals are now three times higher than what the property is worth.

“We are working for the citizens to make things safe for everybody,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Brown at the March 27 City Council meeting. “This has been a long, hard process (working with) these foreclosure properties. I think we have no choice but to go along with this legislation.”

Even with the city starting the foreclosure process, staff will continue to reach out to the property owners to continue to get them into compliance.

“The goal is to get to compliance, not to actually get the properties foreclosed on,” said City Manager Tim Bolduc at the meeting. “Unfortunately, we can’t get compliance, and so that’s the next step.”

The properties the council took action on last month are what the city called the worst of the worst in Crestview. Properties that have been left vacant for years, sometimes without even having doors, windows and in some cases roofs. Even worse are the properties that have been taken over by squatters.

The property that received the most attention during the March 27 council meeting was 650 Shortwell Drive, where according to Police Chief Stephen McCosker the previous property owner passed away without an estate to leave the property to and squatters have since taken it over. Based on the comments from the people who live near 650 Shortwell Drive, the conditions there sound nightmarish.

According to several people who spoke at the meeting, trash is piling up several feet high in many places on the property, there’s no water and sewer at the house, so the squatters apparently use the restroom in the woods and later burn their fecal waste to get rid of it.

The nearby residents also spoke about how concerned, and in some cases scared, the squatters have made them. One resident talked about how squatters had walked past and peered into her daughter’s window on multiple occasions and one time she saw one them walking down the middle of the street swinging an ax.

Earlier this year, the council voted to amend its land development code to allow the city to move forward with foreclosures on properties that have remained out of compliance for months and years without taking any steps to come into compliance. Thank you to the city council, manager and mayor for finally adding the needed changes to clean up these properties.

If seeking foreclosures is the only way to resolve a situation like what is going on at 650 Shortwell Drive, the council should have taken that action a long time ago.

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