The Spot Blight Program
One way that Prince William County fights the effects of deterioration in neighborhoods is through the 'Spot Blight' program. It is administered by the Spot Blight Inspectors of the Neighborhood Services Division. The program identifies 'blighted' properties and seeks to have unsafe structures repaired, renovated or demolished. Because recently-investigated spot blight cases have been in an extreme state of disrepair, most structures have been demolished. However, the County must use the least drastic alternative.
The County can request that property owners maintain structures so that they are safe for inhabitants. The State of Virginia has given the County the authority to repair, renovate or demolish structures if the owner does not maintain them. The County also has authority to resell properties. If the County incurs a cost, the cost will be charged to the property owner.
The term blight is used by many people to describe a condition of being run-down. However, there are specific conditions that must exist on the property before the County can use any of its tools to correct the unsafe conditions.
Blight is defined by the Code of Virginia as 'Any individual commercial industrial or residential structure or improvement that endangers the publics health safety or welfare because the structure or improvement upon the property is dilapidated deteriorated or violates minimum health and safety standards or any structure previously designated as blighted pursuant to Section 36-49.1:1 under the process for determination of 'spot blight.'
Prince William County adds its own criteria to this definition. The structure must have at least one of the following:
- Vacant or boarded for at least one year
- Subject of documented complaints (that is calls for PWC Police service graffiti incidents or Property Code complaints)
- No longer maintained for useful occupancy
- Lacks normal maintenance and upkeep
Achievements of the Spot Blight Program
Since 2002, the Spot Blight Program has brought 228 extremely neglected properties back to a safe condition. That's an average of 23.3 cases per year. Each case is labor intensive because many times owners cannot be located or do not want to put money into renovating severely deteriorated properties.
However, this dedicated enforcement work is important for all residents. The entire neighborhood suffers when a property is allowed to decline to the point where it enters the Spot Blight Program. Properties are unsecured and exhibit multiple violations for building maintenance, graffiti, tall grass and weeds, trash and debris. Without action, this one case could lead to decline in other parts of the neighborhood.
At the same time, it is essential that every citizen's property rights are protected. That means each spot blight violation requires many inspections and many conversations with the owner. It requires numerous certified mailings and possible dates in court if the owner is not compliant. Most of these properties require a significant amount of investment to return them to a safe condition or to demolish them. The Spot Blight Program has been refined to ensure that the unsafe properties are addressed in the fairest way possible. Most owners we encounter are eventually convinced to abide by the law. Many owners have taken responsibility to demolish their blighted properties or repair them to a safe condition without costly or time-consuming court action. The 'before' and 'after' photos below show how an eyesore and true hazard can be made to add to the appearance of a neighborhood.
A neglected property can literally drag a neighborhood down with it.
When property owners of neglected homes comply with County ordinances, the positive difference for both the resident and the neighborhood is unmistakable.
Contact the Spot Blight Team
If you have questions about the Spot Blight program please contact the Neighborhood Services Division of PWC's Department of Public Works at 703-792-7018 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Neighborhood Services is located at 5 County Complex Court Woodbridge VA 22192.