Monday, June 04, 2007

Eyesore Mars City Crossroads

In contrast with the neat borders of the Shakepeare Garden, the thousands of people who pass through the center of Plainfield daily see this unsightly array of weed trees and overgrown shrubbery around the Twin City lot.

The supermarket does not own the property. It is owned by a Somerville firm. The lot is cleaned up on a regular basis, but the shrubbery has not been trimmed for some time. A holly tree has grown six feet high in the in the shrubbery along Park Avenue and at the corner, ailanthus trees have shot up through the landscaping.

A consultant once told city officials that one big impediment to economic development is visible neglect, as evidenced here by these gangly weed trees. The city has the authority to make the owner get rid of the weeds and trim the shrubbery.

Hundreds of people who visit the Shakespeare Garden take away a lovely memory of Plainfield. At this crossroad in the region, is it too much to ask that commuters and residents see a well-kept commercial property instead of a weedy mess?

The Inspections Division also might take another look at a nearby Park Avenue lot where a Hillsborough owner has kept a truck and a car with two flat tires for many months. And on West Sixth Street, a collapsing building that was to be taken down weeks ago is still slowly falling apart.

Some say Inspections needs more staff. Others say it needs better strategies. The results of a state study of the division's functioning have not yet been made public. Meanwhile, Plaintalker suggests that the division and its leaders may simply lack the will to pursue these blatant violations.

Whatever the reason, these out-of-town property owners feel no compunction to obey the city's maintenance code. What does that say to those who are being courted to build here and those who will be invited to buy condos here? Certainly there are many individuals here who show great pride in their property and set high standards for themselves. But if developers see that the city can't or won't uphold its own standards, some might be attracted by the ability to cut corners and others may be put off by investing in a rundown block or neighborhood where newcomers might not want to live.

The problems with Inspections go back decades. The time to solve them is now.

--Bernice Paglia


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