Court orders clean-up at vacant properties

A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has ordered an absentee Baltimore landlord to clean up about 50 blighted properties within 90 days, the first ruling since a state law was amended two years ago to make it easier for community groups to sue the owners of problem properties.

Judge Pamela J. White found that 49 properties owned by Scott Wizig and corporate affiliates represented legal nuisances, with "unsafe and uninhabitable" conditions that have not been fixed despite requests by community groups and notices of violations of the building code. Community groups are "entitled" to a judgement, she wrote in the July 31 order.

"We are proud to be one of the first communities to successfully pursue a Community Bill of Rights claim against an owner whose properties pose a danger to the neighborhood," said Grace Willis, a director of Greater Greenmount Community Association, Inc., in a statement.

Wizig, a Texas resident, owns about 140 properties in Baltimore, which he purchased through the city's sale of properties with unpaid taxes and has let deteriorate, according to a lawsuit brought last year by six community associations. Wizig, who has run into similar conflicts in other cities, and his attorney, Dana Petersen Moore, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Community Law Center, Inc., University of Maryland School of Law's Community Development Clinic, and Venable LLP are representing the neighborhood groups. Other claims against Wizig, including a request for $8 million in damages, are scheduled to go to trial in September.

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