Caernarvon Township, Berks discuss issues of safety with vacant properties

The Caernarvon Township, Berks Board of Supervisors on June 24 discussed an ordinance to address issues of safety with vacant properties.

Following up on a request made by the zoning officer about a violation found at a vacant property on the 3200 block of Main Street, Township Secretary Randall Miller made the board aware of the next steps of action if the owner of the vacant property does not comply and fix the problem regarding the overgrown weeds. This request brought up the question of a blighted property code being worked on to cover issues like this.

Chairman Allen Styer assured that a code is being drawn up because the document prepared by new supervisor, Jennifer Tennant, was too inclusive of all properties, where as they want a code that only covers vacant properties, like the one in question.

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Tennant had been appointed to fill the vacancy left by supervisor Charles Byler who resigned from his position on May 27.

Supervisor Scott Moyer then brought up that there are provisions in place for questions of safety, such as tree limbs growing into the street, and asked why those provisions would not be applied in this case.

Styer responded that he may be referring to the Second Class Township Code which states that the board cannot address the issue without creating an ordinance that would address the issue.

Moyer then asked to clarify, “So if someone has trees growing into the street, we have no right to [remove them]?”

Styer answered, “We do if we make an ordinance.” Styer also reminded the board that the specific property in question is on a PennDOT road, which does not allow the municipality to take the action to clear any limbs from encroaching on the road.

Moyer did agree that that complicates the issue a little bit, however, he then asked, “If we have the right [to remove the safety issue], and we go and do it, who is going to have the issue?”

Styer answered that nobody would have an issue unless the property owner felt that they had been wronged and take the situation to court.

“We’d welcome that,” Moyer stated, saying that it may be the opportunity they need to deal with a safety issue. “We have to deal with the safety first and the consequences of our actions later,” he continues.

Styer then reiterated that without the proper ordinances in place the board can only ask the owner to address the issue without any threats of recourse or fines. Styer continued to say that hopefully by the next meeting something will be written up to handle the issues of safety with vacant properties like the one in question.

The next meeting is July 8 at 7:30 p.m.