The Aegis

A tangled mess in Aberdeen [Editorial]

Schools, proximity to work, neighbors and the neighborhood are among the important items on the checklist, after the all-important one – price - when people look to buy a home.

It all seems to make sense. Everything checks out. The purchase is made. The move is done. Life is good. And it remains good for many years.


Then a neighbor dies. And with them goes the neighborhood as their former house falls into disrepair and, gradually, an eyesore mars what is still a good neighborhood.

That's what has transpired in recent years on Doris Circle in Aberdeen.


"No one in this room would want to look at it," Ruth Ann Young, a former Aberdeen City Councilwoman, told the City Council recently.

Here's the deal: a house at 428 Doris Circle has been vacant for about four years and, in that time, it has been deteriorating because of a lack of attention and maintenance.

To its credit, the city government has been trying to address the matter, but has been reminded there are limits to their authority to do anything to such properties.

"The code does not allow me, if the house is vacant, there is no risk, if it's boarded up, because it's on private property, even though it's an eyesore, it does not allow me to do anything," Kyle Torster, Aberdeen's director of public works, told Young and the City Council.

That's not to say Aberdeen hasn't taken action. About a year ago, responding to complaints from residents, the house was boarded up by the city. Aberdeen had a structural engineer survey the house, in hopes they would get information that would allow it to be demolished as a safety hazard. No such luck as the engineer said "the bones of the building are structurally sound," according to the DPW director.

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There is a $20,000 lien the city has had put on the property for keeping the grass mowed. That amount increases every time the city mows or does some other maintenance allowed by the city code.

City officials said they believe the property was scooped up in an annual tax sale by a big firm buying many properties. It didn't realize what it was getting into, they say, to the point they didn't even pick up the deed to transfer the property. It's been in tax court since.

In the meantime, it's been a blight on Doris Circle. Other such properties exist elsewhere, perhaps not in Aberdeen, but certainly in Harford County. And no matter how hard residents or governments try, not much can be done, at least not quickly, when such eyesores develop.


That doesn't mean anyone should give up and accept untended properties deteriorating. They shouldn't.

Even Young, the embodiment of prim, proper and soft-spoken, has had her fill.

"I should have my taxes reduced because of the crap I have to look at," Young told the City Council.

Not really, but transferring a portion of her taxes to the $20,000 lien against the derelict property doesn't sound like a bad idea.