In 2014, the City initiated a new program of regular periodic inspections of properties located in the R-T Zoning District (Traditional Residential). This district surrounds the downtown business district and contains approximately 1,762 parcels. The majority of the homes located in this district date back to before 1935 and require a lot of maintenance. The Building Standards Division inspected every house once and some a second time in this district in the three years from 2014 – 2016. Each year about 150 properties in violation have issues resolved by the owner. The City hires contractors to resolve another 50 cases and about 30 cases are referred for prosecution.
Although regular periodic inspections are focused in the R-T District, the Division still responds to complaints throughout the city such as tall grass, unlicensed or inoperable vehicles, rubbish and garbage littering the property, cockroaches/bedbugs, and other infestations, and parking on the lawn.
In all, 1,576 property maintenance inspections were conducted in 2016 and 80% of the failed inspections ultimately resolved.
For the City to order a house to be demolished, the Chief Building Official must condemn the house according to the legal standards found in the building code. For example, it must be structural lacking or the cost of repairs must exceed must the fair market value of the house. After that determination, the owner's and lienholders must be identified with a title search and given a fair amount of time to comply with orders to demolish or repair the structure - usually 3 to 6 months. After a failure to comply with these orders, the City must obtain estimates for demolition (at least 3) and hire contractors to perform the demolition. Usually, some money is budgeted by the Building Standards Division each year for demolitions and more is requested from City Council as needed. The approach has been to prioritize the worst cases each year. Also, if there is some desire by the owner to resolve issues, additional time may be granted in an effort to resolve the matter.
During the last 5 years, the City has either demolished or forced the demolition of over 50 houses in the City of Wooster. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant money have been used for these demolitions along with general fund money. During this time other clean up initiatives were also spearheaded by the City such as the Larwill Trailer Park clean-up. All of this has resulted in improved living conditions for the residents and the elimination of substandard housing.