It is hoped that this practical information in this article, learned from experience, will help revitalize downtown Union Springs and bring life back to downtown.

It is hoped that this practical information in this article, learned from experience, will help revitalize downtown Union Springs and bring life back to downtown.

Submitted by Faye Gaston

The Herald has permission to print this series of writings about revitalizing the main street downtown of a city. Jeff Siegler, a Main Street Manager, is sharing this practical information learned from his experiences, that could help revitalize downtown Union Springs. This week's article is about vacant and declining buildings downtown.

Let me break it down. Communities put laws in the books as a means to set a collective standard. This is a way of saying, "These are our expectations as a community, and these are the accountability measures we will use to enforce them". This includes stealing, speed limits, and things like building codes. These regulations are put in place to protect citizens and their investments. We all understand the value of having laws and why we need to enforce them. So consider laws around property maintenance. They are put in place to mitigate risk and protect property values. Without these protections, it is far too risky to invest. I don't want to build or renovate a building in a city where the person next to me has no obligation to take care of their property. No one wants to---and that's why money never flows into these cities. The risk is too great. When we don't enforce existing laws, we give people the green light to ignore them. If you saw everyone was driving 90 miles an hour past a police officer while they smiled and waved, most people would take away the message that it is okay to speed. This is exactly the message we are sending to real estate deadbeats.

The costs of vacant and declining buildings are devastating and the benefits to combating this issue are innumerable. Stop waiting for something to change in your town, make the change. Don't stand for it anymore. Speak up, be the squeaky wheel. Stop defending the deadbeats and call them what they are, lawbreakers.. Demand action be taken. People will tell you, nothing can be done. They are wrong. They don't know what they are talking about, because a thousand other towns have already done something. People will start blathering about property rights, and you can tell them they are right, the owner of a well maintained property has the right not to have her value damaged by a deadbeat owner. Property rights were never meant to protect the deadbeats, they were put in place to protect those investing. If a council person or city solicitor tells you it is illegal to go after vacant property owners, please show them all the examples where it has been legally done.

Standards drop easily and are much harder to raise, but the only way to improve a community is in raising its standards and asking more. The vacant property fight is one worth having and one you can win. You may think you re fighting it alone, but plenty of people in your community feel the same way. Everything in life requires maintenance and property owners know this, they just don't want to spend the time nor the money. It is not anyone's right to own property and if someone can't take care of it, they should forgo the ability to own it, because it is at the cost of everyone else.

Shifting the cost of burden from the general citizenry to the owners of the blighted buildings will be the result. Sums it up perfectly. Let the deadbeats bear the cost.

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