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Preston Commission wants public’s opinion on abandoned and dilapidated property ordinance

KINGWOOD — The next Preston County Commission meeting is the public’s opportunity to voice its thoughts on a proposed abandoned and dilapidated property ordinance.

The second reading and public comment will be on the agenda for Oct. 5, County Administrator Kathy Mace said at Tuesday’s regular meeting. That date will also be when the commissioners can voice their thoughts on the issue.

“We want to make sure that anyone who’s interested to come to speak about the cleanup ordinance come at that time,” Mace said.

The third reading and vote for adoption will take place Oct. 12. Mace said the ordinance will become effective following its adoption.

A copy of the proposed ordinance, citizen complaint form, and citizen’s guide to the ordinance are available online at

The authority for the ordinance comes from the West Virginia Legislature, according to the citizen’s guide. 

Mace said it came about through the county’s cleanup committee. 

“Basically, what we first attacked was the litter in the county and cleaned that up. We have a very active litter control officer, and this committee got much more engaged,” Mace said.  “So as we were doing that project, it became more and more obvious that there were not only litter projects, but there were actually buildings that were in a dilapidated condition or abandoned condition that could cause a public safety problem.”

She said it’s important to note the ordinance will only affect buildings that are unsafe for the public. The citizen’s guide says the purpose is to “protect the citizens of Preston County from unsafe or unsanitary conditions existing on abandoned and/or dilapidated property that represents a risk to the public health, safety or welfare.” 

The ordinance also includes an exception for buildings on land actively being used for agricultural purposes, the guide states. 

Only private property in unincorporated areas is covered by the ordinance. 

The ordinance establishes an enforcement agency, procedures for complaints, lien and sale of land to recover costs, entry on land to perform repairs, alterations, or to satisfy liens, and for the receipt of grants and subsidies. 

According to the guide, if unsafe or unsanitary conditions are found, the commission is authorized to order the issue be fixed at the property’s owner’s expense or “impose other remedies if the property owner fails to make the necessary improvements.”

A seven-person commission including a county engineer or other qualified person, county health officer or their designee, a fire chief from Preston County, county litter control officer, and two members appointed by the county commission for two year terms — one at-large and one actively engaged in agricultural practices. The county sheriff serves as an ex officio member and shall enforce the orders of the Preston County Commission. 

The process begins with citizen complaints as the county lacks the capacity to inspect all properties in the county for possible violations. The full process is outlined in the citizen’s guide.

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