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Enough! Ephraim blight should not be tolerated

 

Ephraim City Council members, the city staff, and hopefully, a few people in other towns in Sanpete County, are starting to utter the “B” word.

That’s “B” for blight.

Until you admit you have it, you can’t do anything about it. Ephraim and Sanpete County are 100 miles from the densely populated Wasatch Front. But we have blight just like bigger cities do. And we’re often more inclined than those big cities to try to hide our eyes and ignore it.

So we commend the Ephraim City Council and city staff for acknowledging the blight that has been festering in the city for decades. We commend them for their strong stand that terrible looking properties that pose health and safety risks must be cleaned up.

The council and staff are right to prioritize the trailer park at 200 North and 200 West, and the abandoned motel at 330 N. Main St. Those properties stand out as examples of the level of blight we cannot tolerate.

Based on discussion in the last few council meetings, the trailer park is not fit for human occupancy. We understand the owner has drawn up the beginnings of a remediation plan. But we doubt the mess that currently exists can ever be transformed into a property that will be a credit to the city.

Rather, we urge the city to close the trailer court and to relocate the residents. We believe such an action is in the best interests of the owner, the residents and the city.

We acknowledge the need for the low-cost housing mobile homes provide. So we believe the optimum scenario would be for someone, ideally a private developer, but as a last resort the city itself, to buy the land and trailers, and clear the site.

That accomplished, a private developer could develop a model mobile home park, the kind of park rarely found in rural Utah, with proper utilities, a road system and appropriately spaced units.

Yes, it would be complicated. Yes, legal barriers would have to be surmounted. But it could be done.

Ditto the old motel. Based on the report from Sunrise Engineering, the firm consulting with Ephraim City on code enforcement, the building has no marketable value. It cannot be transformed at any reasonable cost into a structure meeting current building codes. It needs to come down.

The city has been “trying to get in contact” with and “negotiating” with at least two owners for at least 10 years. Enough. If the current owner does not clear the property fairly immediately, the city should move to condemn it. Common sense tells us the city would have no trouble getting a court to do that.

Once the motel is condemned, the city would have to bear the cost of demolishing it. Under an excellent policy approved by the Sanpete Landfill Cooperative Association, because removal of the motel is a beautification project, the city would be able to dump the refuse at no charge.

The city could then put a lien on the land for the cost of demolition. The motel site has a lot of potential. It would take time, but we believe the city would come out okay financially. And the city would come way out ahead aesthetically.

Once the trailer park and motel are taken care of, the Ephraim City Council has to set other priorities. Two other trailer parks need to be inspected. A couple of weeks ago, one of those parks was the site of a destructive fire. Because units in the park are too close together, a fire that started in one trailer quickly spread to the next home, destroyng both.

After that, city officials say, they plan to turn their attention to Main Street. As the city manager has pointed out, Main Street is the “gateway” to Ephraim. Yet an informal Sanpete Messenger survey found that 10 percent of the properties on the street have problems, ranging from having stood vacant for 20 years to curb strips that have gone to weed.

Tourists, potential Snow College faculty and business people considering investments get their first impressions of Ephraim, and often of Sanpete County as a whole, when they drive along Main Street for the first time. Those impressions could influence whether they do or don’t want to have a stake here.

Thank heaven Ephraim officials are no longer hiding from the “B” word. We commend them. We support them. At the same time, we urge them to get some visible things done quickly. People have heard enough talk. They need to see change.