City leaders in Muskegon Heights are pushing forward with a broader effort to reduce blight in the city and broken down cars that should be in junkyards instead of backyards are part of the new focus.

a car parked in front of a house

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“You can not get to economic development until you address blight and until you move towards beautification,” Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bell said Tuesday. 

The city is challenging residents to clean junk from around their property, sidewalks and terraces near their homes, and junk from backyards too.

For it’s park, the city is pledging to do a better job monitoring illegal dump sites around the city where individuals dump everything from household garbage to old carpet and couches.

Bell says he’s even looking into possibly instilling cameras at various sites where persistent illegal dumping is occurring.

“So that when people do try and go back and dump again there’s accountability for that,” Bell said.

The effort will also work to eliminate blight that’s in plain sight, like broken chairs, couches, and toilets left along streets in the city.

Large bulk items placed at the curb in Muskegon Heights are not picked up and removed unless those items are tagged with a “bulky item tag” which can be purchased at Muskegon Heights City Hall.

“We call it the blight reduction and beautification program,” said Muskegon Heights Police Chief Joseph Thomas. “It sound like a doctoral dissertation.”

But Thomas says it’s not. Muskegon Heights Police, D.P.W., Planning, and Zoning Departments will now work together to eliminate blight by enforcing existing ordinances and codes. 

“We’re just raising the standard on what our expectations are,” Bell said.

“Because we want our city to look like it use to, Thomas added. “A place to come live, work, and play.” 

The new effort includes junk cars.

“It needs to be operable, it needs to be running, it needs to have a license plate,” Thomas said. If not, the car may be towed by police.

Thomas encourages residents with junk cars to contact police for information about selling junk cars. According to Thomas a local wrecking company is offering to pay at least $75.00 for junk cars, and also to haul them away.

Some area non-profits may also offer to remove old car, boats, and motor homes.

“And they’ll give you a tax write off if you just give it to them and they’ll come and pick it up,” Thomas said. “You can make money.”

The alternative is to do nothing, violate the city ordinance pertaining to junk vehicles, and have police tow the vehicle.

“If we take it you don’t get anything,” Thomas said.

That may sound strict but Bells says tickets and fines are not the focus of the blight reduction and beautification program.

“Citations are the last resort,” Bell said. “What we want to do is modify behavior, encourage people to change the way they’re doing things based on this higher standard of expectation.”

Bell believes any reduction in blight in the city will result in home values going up. “As home values go up that increases the wealth of our residents, but it also increases the revue to the city.” 

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