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Deadline nearing for Allegheny County vacant lot program

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Carnegie resident Dave Murrman wants to give his child and dog more room to run, and a summer offer from the Allegheny County Vacant Property Recovery Program has created an avenue for him to do so.

Through the 2014 Side Yard and Blighted Structure Program, Murrman was able to submit an application to acquire the vacant lot next door.

He said the adjacent property has been vacant since he moved to Franklin Avenue in 2011, and neighbors said they have never known there to be a house there.

Until Aug. 30, property owners in certain municipalities can apply to acquire vacant properties at a reduced cost to the applicant. While Murrman has not yet heard back from the county, he said he is looking forward to acquiring the lot if his application is accepted. He said he might plant a garden on it.

“We just want to have more of a yard for our child and dog,” he said. “This would really give us a lot more room for them to play around in.”

The application process generally takes a minimum of four months, program officials said.

Carnegie borough manager Stephen Beuter said Murrman is the only borough resident to submit an application since the program started May 23.

“People ask about it, and if it comes up, we suggest it as an option in certain cases,” he said.

To be eligible, applicants must be current on taxes, water, sewage and refuse bills, must be free of code violations or municipal liens and cannot be in the process of acquiring a property through the 2013 side yard program.

Properties eligible for acquisition during the duration of the program must be a vacant lot or structure, have at least three years of tax delinquency and be located in a participating municipality. For applicants wishing to acquire an adjacent empty lot, like Murrman, the regular $3,000 fee is waived. For applicants applying for property containing a vacant structure, the fee will be discounted to $1,400.

If accepted, applicants are responsible for 100 percent of the appraised value and any closing costs.

“It's just a way to make the acquisition of property more affordable,” said Maureen Quin, Housing Development coordinator at the county's Economic Development department. “The discount is pretty substantial, and that can really be a make-or-break discount for some people.”

She said the department offers the program as extra funding becomes available to allow for the discounts.

In all, 31 other communities are participating in the program, including Collier, Heidelberg, Green Tree and Scott.

Heidelberg manager Joe Kauer said many property owners in the borough have taken advantage of the program in the past, and he said he's received a number of applications so far this summer.

“From a borough standpoint, it's a wonderful program with multiple facets that benefit the community,” he said.

He said most of the properties in question are vacant, with a long-deceased owner, no heirs and no house on the land. He said the lots become a hazard and a liability.

“What's nice about the program is that people who have always had this nasty yard or side lot next to them – they can realistically take title to it free and clear of liens and taxes,” he said. “It basically hits the reset button.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or

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