New Cumberland to join a summit

NEW CUMBERLAND – The City of New Cumberland may soon have a new weapon in its ongoing battle with absentee property owners over their derelict buildings. The Hancock County seat was one of 12 communities chosen to participate in the West Virginia B.A.D. Buildings Summit in Huntington, a city known for its innovative approach to demolishing and rehabilitating unkempt properties. B.A.D. stands for “brownfields, abandoned and dilapidated” buildings. The conference, scheduled for Oct. 7-9, is for municipalities that are “seeking creative solutions to problems caused by abandoned and dilapidated structures,” spokesman Bryan Chambers said. New Cumberland, selected in a statewide competitive process, will be part of a team made up of other Northern Panhandle communities, said Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle. The team attending the conference is expected to include New Cumberland Mayor Linda McNeil, Ford, BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six and Weirton Mayor George Kondik. Other potential attendees are Beech Bottom Mayor Rebecca Uhlly and Bethany Mayor Jay Eisenhauer. McNeil said the team also is looking for a representative of a local bank or lending institution to participate. “It's our hope, through attendance at this summit, that we find out ways to access funds to do the demolition and/or rehabilitation of the properties (identified as nuisances),” she said. McNeil and other city officials have identified unkempt properties as one of the biggest impediments to economic development facing New Cumberland. In the past year, the city has reorganized its Building Enforcement Agency, razed two buildings, added a jail time penalty to its nuisance ordinance and gone after property owners who refuse to clean up vacant or unkempt buildings. The city has pursued property owners in both New Cumberland Municipal Court and Hancock County Circuit Court, asking for nuisance findings and the permission to raze condemned buildings. But McNeil said she was intrigued to learn that Huntington has created a Land Reuse Agency, whereby it bids on properties in foreclosure proceedings and obtains loans to buy dilapidated buildings. In addition to New Cumberland's Health and Sanitation Code and its Building and Housing Code, McNeil said she would like the city to try more innovative methods to address its vacant building issue. Ford said participants in the B.A.D. Buildings Summit also may be able to obtain financial and technical assistance. “I'm confident that's going to be an outcome of this program,” he said. The conference is being hosted by the City of Huntington, the Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit organization, and Marshall University. The Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center, in Morgantown, also has a B.A.D. buildings program, funded by the Pittsburgh-based Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, whereby cities can receive technical and financial assistance for remediation and reclamation projects. The Morgantown program defines B.A.D. buildings as “structures and properties which are vacant, uninhabited and in a state of disrepair, whose owner is taking no active steps to bring the property back into functional use.”

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