New Castle News

November 15, 2013

City may buy residential property

John K. Manna
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo is proposing the city buy a house that was the scene of a shooting last month.

His proposal was presented to city council Wednesday, but the lawmakers tabled it until the Nov. 26 meeting to allow a vote by all five members. William Panella and Thomas Smith were absent.

The property at 315 E. Hillcrest Ave. went up for tax sale by the county for delinquent taxes, but it was not sold and was ultimately placed in the county’s repository.

City solicitor Jason Medure said the county has agreed to suspend its normal policy — a bidding process — and offer it to the city for $598.50.

Mastrangelo said he wants the city to buy the house because it “has been an irritant for all the people who live up there.”

Once it would gain ownership, the city would transfer the property to the non-profit Community Development Corp., which is in the process of being formed.

Mastrangelo said after code enforcement would identify any code violations, the corporation would advertise for a developer or contractor to rehabilitate the dwelling. There would be no cost to the city.

Once the house would sell at market value, the developer would be reimbursed for the money it had invested. Half of the remaining amount would go to the corporation and the other half to the developer.

Three people, including the two occupants of 315 E. Hillcrest Ave., were injured in the shooting. According to the mayor, the property is still occupied by the two residents even though code enforcement has issued a vacate notice.

“We can’t enforce it (an eviction) because we don’t own the property,” he said.

Noting he has had many calls about the property, Mastrangelo said, “I think this is important to make a safe environment for people who live in the area.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, three Hillcrest Avenue residents complained about the conditions at the property and appealed to city officials to allow someone who is responsible to buy the house.

Prior to the meeting, he was asked whether this would be setting a precedent by singling out a particular property.

Mastrangelo responded, “I know this an exception to the rule. I just feel it was necessary to address it. I don’t want another shooting up there.”

He added there are “other places that we can maybe do the same thing.

“If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, it cost us 600 bucks.”