Demolition Of Houses Opens Doors For New Possibilities

By Fred Arnold Telescope Publisher

The options are endless.

What can you do with a newly created vacant lot within the city limits of Belleville? New home construction? A garage? Speculative housing? Maybe an apartment complex or green space. Thanks in large part to the dozers, trucks and excavators of the city of Belleville a newly formed blank slate of opportunities has been created.

Belleville city manager Adam Anderson told the Telescope city crews have been busy before the Christmas holiday tearing down old structures in Belleville. Some at the request of the landowner, others falling victim to the city’s nuisance abatement process

“We just finished our fourth demo,” he told the Telescope. “Three houses and one church.”

Anderson said that all of the properties razed were at the request of people who approached the city and requested help to remove old structures.

“In the past we have condemned houses that were hazardous, but last year and this year we have stayed busy with people requesting help,” Anderson added. He noted that in almost all cases once a property has been razed the landowner will retain the property.

He said the property owner will either pay the city for the demolition or in the case of condemnations, it will get it on their taxes.

“There is an option for the landowner to donate the property to the landbank, this happened with a building we took down on the south side of the square after it burned,” the city manager added.

Still room for more
Anderson said that in a given year city crews will take down three to six houses. He said with the work recently completed, they don’t have any more on the “to do list.”

“We usually only have time to do these kinds of projects in a few of the winter months when we don’t have to maintain the parks, cemetery and Rocky Pond as much,” he added. “But we still have time for people to sign up and can get a few more done yet this winter.”

Belleville Mayor Adam Robertson said earlier this fall that the city’s tearing down of old properties could be a blessing in disguise.

Saying it’s no secret that Belleville has a shortage of housing and an increasing demand through local business and industrial expansion, the mayor said in many cases the newly created lots could be used for spec homes, apartments or other housing.

“We’ve got to get creative when it comes to dealing with our housing needs,” Robertson said. “We know it can work to build a spec home on a vacant lot and sell it and some of the lots we have available in town would be pretty good building sites.”

Belleville city manager agrees.

“One of the houses we took down this year will qualify for a $2,500 economic development grant, to cover some of the costs because they plan to build a new house (on the site) in the spring,”

Anderson said. Anderson added that council members are currently in discussions to see what else can be done to foster use of the vacant lots in the city limits.

“The idea of providing incentive funds for utility hook-ups has been discussed,” he added.

“The city definitely wants to incentivize new housing, which in turn contributes to a stable tax base.”