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Duquesne officials are planning to take legal action against three non-profit agencies that own vacant properties in the city.
At the Sept. 25 meeting, council authorized the city solicitor to bring a lawsuit against the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Duquesne, the Allegheny County Housing Authority and the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority.
“One-third of the land in Duquesne is owned by one of these three entities and we are actively trying to address the blighted properties in the city,” Mayor Nickole Nesby said. “In total, these three governmental agencies have held properties for over 16 years, denying the city nearly $385,000 in delinquent tax funds.”
Government agencies are typically exempt from local, school district and county real estate taxes.
Nesby said some of the properties are being maintained at the city's expense, causing additional strain on Duquesne's budget. She said the city wants the three entities to develop, sell or maintain their vacant, undeveloped properties.
“Some of the property was obtained by using eminent domain, yet the land has been vacant and left blighted for years,” Nesby said.
Frank Aggazio, executive director of the Allegheny County Housing Authority, said he was unaware of any lawsuits, but that it is the housing authority's policy not to comment on pending litigation.
However, he disputed Nesby's claim that the housing authority isn't maintaining its properties. "The housing authority strives to be a good neighbor," Aggazio said.
He also disagreed with Nesby's argument that the housing authority isn't developing the land it owns. Aggazio pointed to Phase 1 of the Orchard Park housing development, which was built on the site of the former Burns Heights housing project, on a hill above Route 837.
"We hope to replicate Orchard Park I (elsewhere) in the City of Duquesne," Aggazio said.
Neither a spokesperson for the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority nor an attorney for the Redevelopment Authority responded to requests for comment before this article was posted.
Earlier this year, the city sued the Duquesne Redevelopment Authority and the non-profit Duquesne Business Advisory Corp. The city is demanding the return to the authority of nearly $1.4 million from a $1.5 million revolving loan fund that was transferred to the advisory corporation.
A judge has not yet reached a decision on the city's request for the money's return.
Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer who covers municipal news from Duquesne and White Oak, along with other topics, for Tube City Almanac. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jason Togyer, editor of Tube City Almanac, contributed to this story. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published October 08, 2018.