FLORENCE, S.C. — Florence is taking steps to deal with abandoned and run-down buildings and revitalize neighborhoods by starting a city livability court.
The Morning News reported the court approved by the City Council last week will have two judges to hear code enforcement issues that often fall through the cracks in municipal court.
Community Services Director Scotty Davis said the new court will have more teeth with judges trained to deal with property and code issues.
Former Police Chief Anson Shells said the goal is not to arrest people but to build trust and handle property matters so the city benefits. Shells will work with the court.
Davis said the biggest issues have been creating stronger ordinances and finding the owners of run-down or abandoned properties.
One person pleased to see the new livability court is Joanne Revelle, who has lived on Florence’s Pine Street for 50 years. Two doors down from her house is an intersection with three dilapidated buildings, while there’s an empty lot on the fourth corner.
“I’d like to see something done with them,” Revelle said.
Some properties are the center of ownership disputes, while others have just been abandoned or neglected. The situation fosters trespassing and crime, city officials say.
Davis said the livability court will allow police and the judges to deal with the various issues that neglected properties bring.
“You have a judge who is trained and has the time and expertise to deal with heir property and ownership issues and all of those property rights issues,” Davis said. “I think we can then start making more of a dent.”
In addition to the court, the city will select a team by next month to implement a Neighborhood Action Plan developed in January by folks living in four of the most affected neighborhoods. The main issues raised in the report were related to cleaning up properties and the problems like crime associated with abandoned buildings.
Davis said the new consultant team will work with staff to find grants to help neighborhoods. In addition, $3 million from the local option sales tax will also be used for neighborhood revitalization.