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Published: Friday, 7/8/2011

Housing amnesty

If you own property in Toledo and have been cited for violations such as tall grass or seriously peeling paint, you should show up at Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell’s courtroom today. This is the last day to take advantage of an amnesty program that will keep you from getting arrested.

Last month, the judge announced a program to forgive property owners who have outstanding warrants for housing code violations. Those who come to court voluntarily will have their arrest warrants waived, although they still must pay any fines and fees they owe, and must arrange to fix the violations.

Because of the poor economy, a larger-than-normal number of owners have allowed their Toledo properties to deteriorate. Some have abandoned their properties. Homes and businesses in disrepair lower surrounding property values. Abandoned properties also become arson targets, hiding places for drugs and stolen goods, and sites of other illegal activities such as drug sales and use.

Nearly 2,000 Toledo owners are wanted by the city because their properties have been judged nuisances. Because warrants have been issued for them, these owners cannot renew their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations. Those who fail to take advantage of the forgiveness offer could be arrested.

The amnesty program was to have ended July 1. But Judge McConnell said he got so many calls that he decided to extend the deadline until today.

The judge admitted that getting owners to take responsibility for their properties won’t happen overnight. “This is probably something we’ll do on a quarterly basis,” he said.

But don’t wait; visit the court clerk’s office before 5 p.m. today. There’s no better time to get right with what you owe.

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