Clarksburg community members voice concerns regarding unsafe structures

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Last month, during a Clarksburg City Council meeting eight contracts were awarded for asbestos removal and demolition of more than 30 condemned unsafe structures within the city. 

(Ord. 16-3. Passed 2-18-16)

Residents are saying that there are even more unsafe houses that do not meet the city code that should be on the city’s condemnation list to be demolished. Also, residents say these unsafe structures are magnets for criminals who are conducting nefarious activities within the city.  

“Pretty clearly we have a triage of triaging these issues in Clarksburg. But I also believe that even if we did triage them properly the magnitude of the problem is so much larger, we can address, and it would always look like we’re not doing anything,” said Ryan DeBarr, a resident of Clarksburg. 

Also, during the council’s meeting last month, the council set aside $600,000 for the upcoming fiscal year to use for demolitions as needed. Residents have said that there are still numerous houses and structures that have been missed by coed enforcement they feel should be considered for condemnation and placed on the city’s demolition list. 

Residents said they fear that criminals are entering these vacant condemned structures are causing safety issues, firstly being safety causing fires that have the protentional to affect neighboring structures. Secondly, residents say with the criminal activities, such as drug use, they fear for their personal safety as well.  

(Ord. 1730.03)

“Why don’t we just board the houses up that are savable instead of putting them on a demolition list. Just board them up, arrest the trespassers, and take that money we would have spent to have programs to encourage rehabilitation, to make a walkable downtown, an inviting downtown,” DeBarr said. “Hire experts to attack this problem. And not just talk about it at nauseam in council, at committees, and on Facebook. Just deal with the problem” 

DeBarr said he has heard from residents in the neighborhoods that they cannot sleep at night, that they do not feel safe. He also expressed that some residents want the houses to come down while others believe that some of the houses are savable. 

“I believe that arresting the people causing the problem is the answer, if we just condemn the house the people come back and go to another house. And that is why after all these years we still have the problem, if anything it’s worse,” DeBarr said. “I do think the extra police officers we’ve hired are making a difference. I don’t see demolition as a way out of this.” 

Section 1-8.2 of the City of Clarksburg Property Maintenance Standards states that closing of vacant structures, if the structure is vacant and unfit for human habitation and occupancy, and is not in danger of structural collapse, the code official is authorized to post a placard of condemnation on the premises and order the structure closed so as not to be an attractive nuisance.  

(Ord. 16-3. Passed 2-18-16)

The code states upon failure of the owner to close the premises within the time specified in the order, the code official shall cause the premises to be closed and secured through any available public agency or by contract or arrangement by private persons. The code explains that the cost will be charged against the real estate upon which the structure is located and shall be alien upon such real estate and can be collected by any other legal resource. 

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