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Council passes ordinance for abandoned properties

The township council passed an ordinance for stricter regulations on abandoned properties on second reading during its April 22 meeting.

The ordinance puts pressure on banks when a foreclosure proceeding has begun or if a residential property becomes vacant at any point, according to the ordinance.

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“Pemberton did this in December. From what they told us, they’ve had a decent amount of success so far,” said Bridget Palmer, township communications director. “Willingboro also has a similar measure they adopted a few weeks ago.”

Additionally, neighboring Evesham Township adopted a comparable ordinance recently, cracking down on banks neglecting property, which was some of the information Cherry Hill Township reviewed, according to Palmer.

Currently, the township sends notices to banks and creditors to maintain upkeep of a house, including keeping grass at 10 inches or shorter.

According to Palmer, once a violation notice has been sent, if the bank neglects to respond, the township re-inspects the property and assigns it to public works for basic maintenance.

Additionally, if the banks don’t respond in the set period of time set by the council the banks will be sent a summons, and a judge will set a fine.

“The banks are forcing the township to spend time and money on private property they have control of once the homeowner vacates,” Palmer said.

There are 145 properties considered vacant within in Cherry Hill.

“These blighted properties have been abandoned by their owners, usually because of foreclosure,” Mayor Chuck Cahn said. “Banks and creditors who are responsible for these properties refuse to step up to the plate and abide by property maintenance codes.”

According to Cahn, the neglect of the homes drives down property value, and it is unfair to taxpayers for banks to ignore their responsibilities and “most basic standards.”

“I thank council for their support [on this ordinance],” Cahn said.

“It’s important for the quality of life. It’s one of the top complaints we get from people,” Palmer said. “Hopefully, it will have meaningful impact.”

The ordinance will take effect on June 1.

In other news:

Miss Atlantic County Lindsey Giannini, the co-founder of the non-profit People Against Distracted Driving, presented four traffic signs to the township.

The council presented Giannini with a proclamation.

“Council and I enthusiastically support Lindsey’s campaign, and we appreciate her willingness to help educate our residents — particularly our young drivers — about the potential consequences of texting and driving,” Cahn said in a release. “She is providing an important public service that could save countless lives, and Cherry Hill Township is proud to support this effort.”

The traffic signs will be placed by Cherry Hill East and West high schools, in addition to the Camden County College campus.

Giannini began her quest to educate her peers as a high school junior after realizing how many fatalities occur per year due to distracted driving.

She backed the platform before competing as a part of the Miss America Organization.

“I am determined to lower the number of needless deaths on the road each year,” Giannini said.

According to Giannini, 17 people per day die from distracted driving incidents.

Sgt. Amy Winters reached out to Giannini via Facebook to bring the initiative to the township.

“Even with the number of accidents and fatalities, we still see people texting and holding cell phones while driving,” Winters said in a release. “The Traffic Safety Unit is proud to partner with Miss Giannini to spread this important reminder to put the phone down and focus on driving.”

The next township council meeting will be held May 13 at the township building, located at 820 Mercer St. in the N. John Amato Council Chambers at 7:30 p.m.

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