West Orange mayor: City gets proactive with abandoned structure demolitions

Published 12:20 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

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WEST ORANGE — From streets to buildings, the city of West Orange is getting a facelift.

In July, Mayor Randy Branch told Orange Newsmedia how crews had been working since the start of the year on a more than $2 million project to resurface a number of roads in the city.

Branch also had his eyes set on demolishing dilapidated buildings throughout the city.

Demolition takes place along Greenbriar Street in West Orange. (Courtesy photo)

“We currently have a list of 20 structures to be demolished,” Branch said last month. “We have completed five. We will be seeking bids on the rest as soon as the details are taken care of.”

City funds are budgeted for this project, which Branch said is moving along well.

“There are many different aspects to having this effort succeed,” Branch says. “There are laws to follow, procedures to complete and details that have to be taken care of.”

There are approximately 20 steps to have a structure flagged for demolition.

First a property owner is informed the structure is out of code compliance, then there’s a process to put the property on the agenda for a public hearing, which includes sending a certified letter to the property owner.

Once the order passes at a public hearing, the owner is informed. There’s a public notice issued, then the city requests and awards a bid for demolition.

“Any time you drive through a city, you notice the condition of housing, streets and other infrastructure,” Branch said. “If the city is not proactive in taking care of those items, it is noticeable and people look elsewhere to live.”

So why are there a number of structures that need to be demolished in the first place?

“It is my opinion, as an example, that as citizens pass away, homes are left to heirs and sometimes the heirs don’t want anything to do with the property and just let it sit there,” Branch said.

“Taxes aren’t paid. Repairs aren’t done. Sometimes the structures become rental properties and the owners abandon them.”

One way or another, Branch said the mission of the demolitions is to make West Orange a more inviting place to live.

— Written by Chrissie Mouton