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Council strikes a blow against blight with new ordinance

Published On: Jul 16 2013 10:28:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 16 2013 10:30:08 PM CDT
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Owners of abandoned properties in Bethlehem are now required to register them annually with the city, or be subject to a fine of at least $1,000.

An ordinance establishing a registry of abandoned properties passed Bethlehem City Council by a 7-0 vote Tuesday night.

"One house can change the way a neighborhood looks, and hopefully this ordinance will keep blight from happening," said council president Eric Evans before the vote.

The ordinance defines an abandoned property as one that is in foreclosure, whether vacant or occupied.

The person or institution who holds the mortgage is required to inspect the property after a default, and then has 10 days to register it, according to the ordinance.

If the property remains occupied but in default, a monthly inspection must be done by the mortgage holder, the ordinance says.

The mortgage holder must supply a mailing and email address, a contact name and telephone number, and the name and 24-hour contact number of the property management company responsible for maintenance and security, the ordinance says.

The ordinance requires a $200 registration fee for each property, and anyone not registering a property or violating the ordinance can be fined $1,000 for first and second offenses; $3,000 for a third offense; $7,000 for a fourth, and $10,000 for a fifth.

In other business, council authorized the mayor to apply for a $32,445 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

The city's share of the grant will be $21,127, with the remaining $11,318 going to Eason.

Bethlehem will be paid a $1,131 fee by the city of Easton for serving as fiscal agent for the grant.

Bethlehem's police department will use the money for computer hardware and software in its cruisers, deputy police chief Craig Finnerty said at a two-minute public hearing before the vote.

Council also signed off on an application for a $50,000 Greenways, Trails and Recreation grant to further plan and develop a Bethlehem area trail system.

The money would be matched by $50,000 in local funds, said director of planning and zoning Darlene Heller.