Springfield to state: Clean up abandoned, nuisance properties

March 07, 2018

The city of Springfield wants the state to better care for properties that have been forfeited to it and have become blighted, creating problems in neighborhoods.

More than 595 properties in Clark County have already been forfeited to the state and about 50 to 100 more will be forfeited this year — the majority of them concentrated in Springfield, said a Feb. 22 letter from Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

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“We’re burdened by these properties,” Strozdas said.

The attorney general’s office received the letter and is reviewing it with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, spokesman Dan Tierney said. He declined further comment.

The city currently has 231 state-owned properties with nuisance abatement orders, including for demolition, board and secure, overgrown weeds, and junk and trash clean up, the letter says.

In September of 2016, a Springfield News-Sun investigation showed the state of Ohio was the No. 1 property code violator in Springfield with more than 700 violations.

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The state doesn’t maintain these properties or respond to code violations, so Springfield absorbs all of the costs of cutting the grass or cleaning up other problems.

Two attorney general’s decisions about 80 years ago absolved the state from maintaining those properties, Strozdas says in his letter, which he believes is disingenuous.

“I respectfully suggest that you advise (the Department of Administrative Services) that it should stop relying on these opinions,” Strozdas says. “The failure of the state and DAS to care for and maintain forfeited real estate has caused and continues to cause significant problems to the city of Springfield and its neighborhoods.”

Properties that go through foreclosure and aren’t sold at sheriff’s auction are turned over to the state, Strozdas said. The number of forfeited properties has increased greatly in the past several years due to the foreclosure crisis.

Recently a former packaging plant in a residential neighborhood that was heavily damaged by fire, Euclid Elements at 504 W. Euclid Ave., was forfeited to the state. Two fires were set at the plant last month, Strozdas said.

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The property also is adjacent to the Little Miami Trail, a multi-use path that extends from Springfield to Cincinnati.

“This is a blighting influence on the neighborhood and an eyesore to recreational visitors and local users,” Strozdas says in his letter.

The property has bricks falling onto the street that could hurt people, Springfield resident David Sanford said. He took photos of the property to show to Springfield city commissioners at their meeting on Feb. 27. He asked commissioners to barricade the building so no one gets hurt.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in my entire life,” Sanford said. “That building could not be on any other side of town but the south side of town. Any kid who went in there could get killed at any time.”

The city is in the process of trying to clean up the property, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

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“What’s often the case is that it’s hard to establish ownership sometimes,” Bodenmiller said. “We’re aware of it. It’s a difficult one to deal with.”

Strozdas also filed a suit to have the property declared a public nuisance, he said. In 2016, the property owners owed more than $136,000 in back taxes.

The city is dealing with similar former industrial properties in other parts of town, such as the Crowell-Collier building, “as aggressively as we can,” Strozdas said.

“We’ve been working on this property for a number of months, virtually since the fire,” he said.

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