Town Takes Aim At ‘Ugly’ Downtown Businesses

While serving on the Crothersville Town Council, just three months Chad Wilson has heard a variety of residents’ concerns. And the top issue, he said is  the number of properties that look bad in town.

Plywood covering windows, paint peeling off of homes and businesses and abandoned properties are among the problems residents would like to see addressed.

“We have three businesses within one block of the stoplight that have plywood covering windows,” Wilson said. “It’s ugly. It’s unprofessional. What message does that convey when people drive through our town? Is that the image we want for our town?”

While the town has a nuisance ordinance that addresses unsightly or neglected properties, and an unsafe building committee investigates buildings and residences that aren’t structurally sound, but one of the biggest issues— plywood covering windows— is not included in that ordinance. So Wilson and some other council members agreed maybe it’s time to make some revisions.

Council member Danieta Foster said she thinks businesses should be held to a higher standard, suggesting there be separate standards in an ordinance for commercial and residential properties.

Town attorney Jeff Lorenzo said an ordinance can be created to outline the standards, and if a property owner is found in violation, they could be given a certain amount of time to comply.

“You have a standard that you want your businesspeople to meet — we want glass in the windows, we want to get rid of the plywood, whatever it is,” Lorenzo said. “Then you pass that ordinance and whatever the statutory time limit you decide on, I would say six months to a year, to comply.”

With some of the buildings in town having historical significance, Foster said she wondered if grant money was available to help owners make improvements.

One option is applying for a façade program. Through that program, downtown business owners in Seymour and North Vernon were able to make improvements to the outside of their buildings in recent years. In those instances, business owners provide a funding match.

Also, the Indiana Department of Transportation offers a local project administration program, which funds sidewalks, streetscape and lighting in communities. That requires a local match.

Wilson said the council could ask the town’s grant consultant, Trena Carter with Administrative Resources association, about those possibilities at the next meeting, set for 6 p.m. April 6 at Crothersville Town Hall.

“If we’re wanting to bring in business, if we’re wanting to bring in people to live in our town, if we’re wanting people to move in and set up shop here in town, but yet they look at this… we’re sending the wrong image,” he said of the unsightly properties.