Maple Heights mows down neighborhood blight

11:53 PM, Jul 31, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLE HEIGHTS -- Throughout Northeast Ohio, cities are dealing with the issue of foreclosure and vacant homes. And when no one's home, lawn's don't get cut, and grass becomes overgrown.

The City of Maple Heights is dealing with the problem head on. It's fighting back against neighborhood blight and turning a negative into a positive.

"Who wants to live in a house that's looking terrible," says Maple Heights City Inspector Darrell Pate.

We joined him on a day when he drove around looking for properties in violation of the 5-inch rule.

"We had a big, huge, mega-sized problem on our hands," says Mayor Jeff Lansky of his city, which currently has more than 300 vacant homes.

The city is citing delinquent homeowners, from landlords, to banks, mortgage lenders and even H.U.D.

"We've brought accountability at least back to neighborhoods," Lansky says.

Since the program began, Maple Heights has had a 100 percent success rate in collecting fees through liens and property taxes.

"It's like that old saying, 'you can run, but you can't hide.' Eventually we will get you," Lansky declares.

But Maple Heights has taken the program one step further, to turn its battle against blight as an opportunity for a small group of its hardworking citizens.

Lawn maintenance has been farmed out to Maple Heights' landscapers, who all could use the boost to their businesses. Last year, the program brought in nearly $200,000, which pays for 2 full-time inspectors and 7 landscapers.

"The good thing about that is they all live in the city here," Lansky says.

"Definitely needs to be cut," landscaper Art Gray tells us. Gray's business is steady now, thanks to the work from his community.

"It has really helped me out and it also gives me the opportunity to help the community," says Gray.                


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