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Thorpe official asks Carbon to adopt $15 blight fee

Published February 11. 2019 02:21PM

A Jim Thorpe official is hoping Carbon County will take the first step to help municipalities fight the blight of dilapidated homes around the area.

On Thursday, Louis Hall, chairman of the Jim Thorpe Planning Commission, approached the county commissioners with a request to consider adopting a $15 fee be added to property transfers to use to fund blight demolition.

In 2016, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill, written by state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks, and Rep. Neal P. Goodman, D-Schuylkill, that allows counties to authorize a $15 fee on deeds and mortgages to fund demolition. The law reduces the amount of time buyers have — from 18 months to 12 months — to either bring properties up to code or tear them down.

“I was hoping the county would consider the $15 fee,” Hall said. “It will help us tear down dilapidated homes to help with property values of neighbors living in those vicinities and enable us (municipalities) to leverage funds for state assistance.”

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that the board has had some discussion on the fee in the past but there are some issues that they need to further look into before making a final decision.

“Part of the issue is that we get into if we decide to do this is the amounts aren’t very much (that the county would receive),” Nothstein said. “What we would take in in a year would not even tear down one blighted building.”

Nothstein added it also comes down to how the county would determine who would get the money for blight projects since there are 23 municipalities in Carbon.

Hall said he understood but urged the commissioners to investigate it because the state would ask if this fee was in place if a municipality applies for funds to assist with blight.

Commissioner William O’Gurek had reservations about the fee.

“I think this is passing the fee onto a lot of people who have not run down their properties and who are buying properties as an investment or as a place to live,” he said.

“If you’re living next to a dilapidated home and it is depreciating your home value, I think you would look at it differently,” Hall said.

Nothstein said they would take Hall’s thoughts into consideration.

Hall said neighboring Schuylkill County adopted the fee last year.

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