DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) – Duncannon leaders passed an ordinance years ago banning boarded-up windows and doors. Their goal was to fight blight, but the borough council voted this week not to enforce it.
Buildings plastered with plywood line several streets. The ordinance required glass windows and doors on vacant properties.
“It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes,” Derek Peters said. “Coming into town and leaving, it’s just raggedy places.”
Peters lives across the street from a blighted building on North Market Street.
“I think if it looked nicer, people would get a different perspective on Perry County, on Duncannon, and everywhere else around here,” Peters said.
The council hit a roadblock when Commonwealth Court struck down Philadelphia’s ordinance. Duncannon’s is modeled after it.
“Unfortunately, what the courts have held is that we can have ordinances that impact public safety, to preserve public safety, but not that preserve aesthetics. As long as it’s closed and there’s no public safety issue, we can’t enforce it to be glass,” Duncannon Borough Manager Chris Courogen said.
A committee is looking at getting a grant to clean up blight in Duncannon.
“We have a problem with blight,” Courogen said.” We don’t have a major problem with broken windows that are boarded up. We have a few properties that are that way, but blight’s a problem everywhere. It’s not just Duncannon.”
Courogen believes part of the problem is falling property values, which results in the borough getting less tax revenue.
The median household income is $44,853 compared to the state average of $52,700, according to the borough’s Early Intervention Report. The report also shows real estate taxes have declined from a high of $203,000 in 2007 to a low of $178,000 in 2014. The home ownership rate is 51.7 percent. The state average is 69.9 percent.
“Duncannon is great,” Peters said. “It just needs a facelift.”
The borough may enforce the ordinance if the Commonwealth Court decision is reversed, but Courogen doesn’t see that happening in the near future.