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WHAT WE THINK: Property owners have responsibilities

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A troubling scenario has unfolded during the past couple of weeks about a conflict between residents and their landlords that has opened a seeping wound on the generally lovely complexion of downtown Shelbyville.

A troubling scenario has unfolded during the past couple of weeks about a conflict between residents and their landlords that has opened a seeping wound on the generally lovely complexion of downtown Shelbyville.

Several residents who rent apartments of some fashion from Greg Wood Properties were left for a period of time without utilities even though they say they had paid for those services in their rent payments to Mr. Wood’s company.

That sort of conflict happens frequently everywhere, but what unfolded last week was a troubling treatise about properties that were on the verge of – if not in fact already in –condemnation, that were in arrears in utility bills and of an owner who was facing multiple foreclosures for both unpaid mortgage payments and back property taxes.

And although we sympathize with those residents and praise the efforts of the individuals, companies and agencies that worked together to restore their rightful services, we are more bothered here by the real and ugly picture we see about the rightful responsibilities of property owners in Shelby County.

In fact, we have been troubled for many years by owners in Shelby County who buy up property, rent it somewhat cheaply and then leave that property – some of it in prominent and historic locations – to decay because of their abuse of the law or the rights of the residents.

This is most problematic within the city limits of Shelbyville, where code enforcement officers have a difficult job not only in getting the attention of the property owners but, in fact, also in getting legal satisfaction in the processes they are paid to uphold.

We have seen, heard and read how many property owners are negligent not only in their mortgage obligations and the upkeep of their buildings and acreage but also in paying taxes, repairing sidewalks and being responsible to the city in which they own property.

Some of them act as if they are above the laws of public responsibility, that if paint chips and weeds grow, they owe no debt other than to themselves.

That’s simply not true.

To own property in any jurisdiction carries with it a social responsibility to those around and to those who inhabit your property. If you own property, you also own the responsibility to take care of the facilities for not only the financial stake of all involved but also, in some cases, for sound health practices, lawful liability and community’s pride and well-being.

Too often there are property owners who don’t care about any of that, who skirt ordinance and embattle anyone who suggests they have a greater share of the public’s pie than simply one slice.

Recently the Shelbyville City Council has been aggressive in cracking down on derelict property owners, pursuing back payments for taxes, business licenses, homeowners fees and, with the most volatility, sidewalk repair.

We say bully for the council.

Shelbyville, the historic and economic heart in the county’s circulatory system, deserves to be kept as strong, vibrant and pure as is humanly possible.

Its history should be protected by one and all, and its beauty and charm must be maintained equally and not selfishly by each of us. No scars should be allowed.

On second thought, we, too, are selfish:
We want what’s best for Shelbyville and Shelby County.

And what’s best is not to have property owners who are so enraptured with their own profit margins that they don’t want to be part of the greater good.

Our message to those property owners: Lead, follow or get your worthless ways out of ours.