Blight solution

Manager to form a committee to advise council

Buildings along Iron Street in the city’s downtown, some of which are beset by blight, are pictured. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

NEGAUNEE — The city of Negaunee is seeking residents who wish to assist in solutions for blight in the community.

As one of his inaugural actions as Negaunee City Manager, Nate Heffron, who started in the position in mid-January, has issued a directive governing the creation of a committee to research blight in the city and advise the city council on the matter.

The Special Advisory Committee on Blight Resolution will consist of six members including the city manager the chief of police, the city attorney and three members at-large appointed by the city manager, the press release states.

The functions of the committee will include; a review of the International Property Maintenance Code; determine if any parameters described in the code apply to properties within the city; determine whether current blight ordinances are effective; determine if there is currently a “blight” problem within the community; determine what sections of the IPMC should be adopted by the city; provide recommendations as to what property classes would be best served at this time to apply such standards of the IMPC; hold no less than four public hearings on the matter of blight and provide a written report and findings.

Heffron said the current ordinances limit the city’s authority to eliminate, decrease or stop blight.

“We currently have an ordinances that is already in place that specifically only deals with the downtown area,” Heffron said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said the committee would be investigating whether blight in Negaunee exists on a larger scale than the downtown area and utilize community perspective from business owners, landlords and residents to do it.

“What is the standard?” Heffron said. “That’s the first question. The other question is — Is it one building, two buildings — how widespread is it? We will get this information together and get it to the council in order to either expand or change the ordinance,” Heffron said.

The investigation is not intended to result in the “public shaming” of property owners, he said, blight ordinances are typically created for the purpose of public health safety and welfare.

“Without the resolve of the public behind this it can cause a lot of political issues and animosity toward the city. We want to talk about results, rather than causing heartache within the community,” he said. “You get more cooperation when you walk people through the process rather than slam the hammer down and say ‘you broke the law.’ Some communities will call people out by name or put people’s name in the paper, but that undercuts the committee’s ability to work with the person.”

Heffron said he recognizes that some city-owned properties may also be affected by an updated blight ordinance.

“This is the same thing I did back in Nebraska,” Heffron said. “What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The city has some buildings that we own and operate that may be in violation with the code. We have to show that we are setting a good example for the community,” he said. “From my perspective, when this law is written, we would not necessarily be immune.”

Heffron encouraged individuals who wish to serve on the committee to go to the city’s website to download an application, which can be found under the “Press Release – Establishment of a Special Committee on Blight Resolution” link. Qualified individuals must live within the corporate limits of the City of Negaunee and be at least 18 years of age. Applications should be submitted at Negaunee City Hall, 319 W. Case St. or can be mailed to P.O. Box 70, Negaunee, MI 49866.