Richburg will consider removing blighted properties

Richburg Town Council is considering entering into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments aimed at removing some blighted residential properties in the town.
At their June meeting, council heard a presentation by Cole McKinney with the Catawba Regional Council of Governments (COG). McKinney told council earlier this year the Catawba Regional COG received $5.6 million from the S.C. Housing Finance and Development Authority for the Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP).
“What this program allows us to do is go in and purchase homes that are derelict or considered blighted properties by the jurisdiction. These are typically those houses you would see that are falling in or may have burned and are abandoned. Some of them may have tax liens on them and taxes haven’t been paid in a while or might have numerous code violations. These are homes that a lot of communities would like to see get torn down,” McKinney explained.
The NIP allots $35,000 per property and allows COG to buy the derelict houses, demolish them, re-green the now vacant lot by grading it and re-seeding it. This is voluntary and the property owner has to agree to sell the property to COG. Catawba Regional then holds the property for three years.
Catawba Regional COG is working with local governments to target 40 properties in each of the counties the organization serves – Chester, Lancaster, Union and York Counties.
“The idea is to get these properties back on the tax rolls, maybe sell them to developers and have them build a house back onto the lot and get it back in good standing in relations to codes and ordinances of the local government,” McKinney said.
COG is asking the local jurisdictions to sign an MOU and agree to maintain the lot once it has been re-greened and kept up according to any local ordinances.
“If it’s a non-conforming lot, and what we mean by that is some building codes and zoning ordinances have certain setbacks to allow construction on the lot…once you tear down the old structure, you have a non-buildable lot and you can’t build a new house on the lot because of the setbacks requires, what we’re asking for in those cases is at the end of three years, the local jurisdiction buys those back from us for $1, because there’s nothing we can do with that lot,” McKinney pointed out.
“Ultimately, we’re just trying to get rid of the blight, and get these properties back on the tax rolls,” he said.
The blighted properties that could be demolished under this program must be residential and cannot be commercial or industrial properties, and any structure on the property can’t be occupied, McKinney said. For example if there was a property where there was an abandoned house and someone was living in a mobile home on that same property, that lot would not qualify for the program. Abandoned mobile homes on a lot can qualify for the program, McKinney said.
Once Richburg decides to participate, the COG will work with local town staff to prioritize which properties should be dealt with first under this program.
McKinney said Chester County and the City of Chester have already agreed to be part of the program.

By Brian Garner, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter