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Hoosier city targeting blight

Columbus to demolish 9 buildings

– A city renowned for its architecture is taking steps to rid itself of unsightly properties.

Leaders in Columbus are launching a push to condemn and demolish blighted buildings as part of a strategic plan that includes ensuring safe and affordable housing for all residents.

The city has nine buildings on its demolition list. All are considered unsafe under Indiana law.

Mayor Kristen Brown told The Republic she expects more buildings to be added to the list.

The city hadn’t ordered a demolition in at least a decade until it razed the former Best Buy Carpet store on Pennsylvania Street last year.

Abandoned properties are unsightly and create problems for the community, serving as “magnets for criminal behavior and undesirable behavior,” Brown said.

Bill Klakamp, the zoning compliance officer for Bartholomew County, said he works with owners of buildings that pose safety hazards or nuisances to try to find a low-cost way to fix the problem or remove the structures.

If a solution can’t be reached, Klakamp alerts the Board of Public Works and Safety, which can approve demolition of the property and apply the cost, including fees and penalties, as a tax lien on the property.

City Attorney Jeff Logston said liens allow the city to recover the cost of demolition when the owner elects to sell or the property goes to a sheriff’s sale.

Brown said the city is applying for funds through the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Blight Elimination Program to help cover the demolition costs. The awards will be announced Aug. 28.

The city also is working to create a fund specifically for the demolition of unsafe buildings.

Klakamp said city officials won’t add to the list of buildings to be demolished until they resolve the initial nine cases.

“We’ve reviewed our oldest and most chronic problems,” he said. “And this is where we’ve started – with the first step.”