Neighbors worry change to anti-blight ordinance could have negative effects in Duncannon

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DUNCANNON, PERRY COUNTY, Pa. -- A change in Duncannon means you may soon be seeing more boarded up buildings.

Now, some people who live in the Perry County community say the change will only increase the blight problem there.

Under the old ordinance here in Duncannon, these windows and doors couldn’t be boarded up. Now, though, the borough voted to roll back the ordinance, just as long as animals can't get inside the buildings, and there's no big safety concerns.

"For example, we can require them to close those openings so that rats or pigeons or whatever cannot get in, and we can enforce that, but we cannot say it has to look good," explained the Duncannon borough manager, Chris Courogen.

And you see openings boarded up at this property on North Market Street and at this property, just up the road from the borough building, on North High Street. Under the old ordinance, this could have been a violation.

"You know it was primarily for appearance to remove that aspect of blight, the bad look that comes with something being boarded up long term," said Courogen. "It does take a tool out of our belt as far as fighting blight."

According to Courogen, now the boards are fine as long as the borough doesn’t see it as a safety concern.

The council voted on the change here in Duncannon because of a court cause out of Philadelphia.

That case found the city could not enforce a law based on a property's aesthetic value -- only properties that pose a safety risk to the community.

Rocky Troutman who has lived in Duncannon for 7 years says he's not too concerned about the change.

"I think there's one or two properties that just people haven't gotten to yet, and in the past, they've always eventually gotten it taken care of. I mean its a decent little place," said Troutman.

Lisa Landis, a neighbor, says the borough needs new property codes.

"We don't want to see boarded up buildings or plywood windows lack of doors. We don't want to see pigeons roosting in attics and second floors. It hurts the morale, I think the community pride, and I think it can lend itself to a sense where it's okay to throw litter on the ground or it's okay to have more broken windows," said Landis.

Landis believes property values could decrease in Duncannon, a borough already in financial crisis according to Courogen.

"If you get the properties in town looking nicer, it will make people more interested in investing here," added Courogen.

The borough manager says Duncannon has a revitalization committee looking for money to help neighbors with potential blight issues in the community.