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Committee to advise Munhall on vacant properties

| Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, 4:46 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
This house in the 2700 block of Homestead-Duquesne Road in Munhall is on the demolition list.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
This house in the 600 block of E. Ninth Ave in Munhall is on the demolition list.

A committee is being formed in Munhall to address vacant properties.

“It's not an official committee of the borough that can take action, but it would be a recommending committee,” council president Dan Lloyd explained on Wednesday.

Borough manager Robert Kallen said the committee's purpose would be to review properties and determine which ones might be salvageable, which ones may need to be demolished and which ones could be marketed.

Borough code enforcement officer Dave Cannon said Munhall has at least 200 vacant properties.

“Anything's better than doing nothing,” Cannon said about the committee. “There are so many different avenues you could go. Each property has to be looked at to see what's the best scenario of which way to go. I don't think there's one way you could do it for all properties.”

Mayor Raymond Bodnar, the Steel Valley Council of Governments president, said the new committee could work with Steel Valley COG and its land bank proposal, along with other vacant property efforts.

A land bank is a public authority that works to transform vacant, abandoned or tax-foreclosed properties with the hopes of spurring redevelopment and productive use of those areas.

“I think it's a great program,” Bodnar said. “If everybody cooperates we can get things done and take care of some of the problems. To me, it's a great thing.”

“We're going to try to work with COG on certain aspects of this,” Lloyd said. “Certain aspects are going to be really (with) private markets ... In other instances it may make sense to run certain property through a land bank.”

Other tools available to deal with vacant properties include sheriff sales, a conservatorship program, Allegheny County's Vacant Property Recovery Program, or owner donations of property to the borough.

“It's a complicated and tedious process to acquire property, even when it's vacant and blighted,” Lloyd said.

Kallen said much work needs to be done before the committee would be finalized, which he projects to be in October.

“We don't have any names yet. We don't even have a process of (property) identifications,” Kallen said.

The proposed committee was announced earlier this month at a council meeting.

Lloyd said the idea came about after discussions with attorneys, investors and borough officials earlier this year.

He mentioned Munhall should not be in the real estate business, but should help facilitate solutions to property issues.

“We got to save our housing and we want to clean up our neighborhood,” he said. “It's not just us (officials). It has to be everybody.”

Lloyd said he wants to organize a meeting next week regarding the committee, and information will be posted on www.munhallpa.us.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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