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Fixing up blighted properties is key: Editorial

Posted 6/19/19

Blighted properties — eyesores if you want to be blunt — are not good for the communities that surround them.

Fortunately, several prominent ones in our communities are being …

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Fixing up blighted properties is key: Editorial

Posted

Blighted properties — eyesores if you want to be blunt — are not good for the communities that surround them.

Fortunately, several prominent ones in our communities are being addressed.

In last week’s Press & Journal, Laura Hayes reported on Londonderry Township’s efforts to clean up the 230 Diner on East Harrisburg Pike.

The building has stood in disrepair since fire gutted it in December 2003.

That’s more than 15 years.

Many people posted their regrets on our Facebook page about the current condition of the restaurant, remembering fondly how well it was run at its prime.

But it no longer is at its prime, and action is needed. Desperately.

Five citations have been filed against the owner, Essam M. Haggag of Cleona, with District Judge David H. Judy for a number of issues — unsanitary conditions; overhangs not properly anchored and incapable of supporting loads; roof defects with inadequate drainage; and the siding and masonry joints between the building, windows and doors not maintained water tight.

“It’s been flooded. It’s been burned. It’s not been inhabited since. It doesn’t have any heating, any cooling,” Jeff Burkhart, township codes and zoning officer, said during an April 1 board of supervisors meeting. “The building is in bad disrepair. People are using the back lot for a dump.”

These citations sound like a serious step that should spur action. More might even be coming, Burkhart said. But Haggag has been cited before and no serious, long-term action to clean up the site was taken.

“It’s a shame. It’s like, ‘Welcome to Londonderry Township’ when you come in,” Supervisor Ron Kopp said.

Indeed. It’s not a good first impression.

Haggag certainly has the right to own the property, and he is under no obligation to rehab the property into a restaurant. But he must follow the codes of the township. If he isn’t willing to do so, then selling the property certainly seems reasonable. After all, it will be very close to the potential Lytle Farms housing development, if that ever comes to fruition.

The sale of the former Bunky’s in downtown Middletown certainly has been a welcome development. The property at 10-16 S. Union St. was purchased last fall by an entity known as KRP Limited for $110,000 from Al Dolatoski and Joyce E. Sipe.

The building had been vacant for several years and has been considered an eyesore by local residents, businesses and borough officials. Concerns over the building having deteriorated to where it was a safety hazard led the borough in July 2017 to obtain a warrant so a structural engineer could go inside and inspect it.

Results of the inspection led to the borough citing Dolatoski for code violations. After a hearing in May, District Judge David Judy found Dolatoski guilty and ordered him to pay a $300 fine plus $90.25 in court costs and fees.

Now, work is being done on a daily basis at the site. The insides have been stripped down to the studs. More room is being added on the second floor in the rear. The appearance of the front is being improved significantly.

A very large amount of money is being spent by the new owners, and we are hopeful the renovations will draw new business to the borough.

We need to take heart that improvements to blighted properties can happen, and we are happy to hear that the borough is stepping up its efforts.

In April 2018, borough Zoning & Codes Officer Al Geosits told the council that staff was examining property maintenance issues on Main Street from Nissley Street east to Vine Street.

As reported on the front page of today’s Press & Journal, the yellow house at the corner of Union and Main streets was the first property that staff looked at. It also is being renovated.

Blighted properties can give the impression to those traveling through that the people don’t care about their communities. They don’t inspire a sense of pride.

Keep at it, Middletown and Londonderry. We hope these actions continue and expand beyond the boundaries of Middletown and Londonderry.

They will prove to be investments that will pay incredible dividends while showing everyone that our communities are on the right track for the future.