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Helper business owners want city to get tough with eyesore properties

Sun Advocate associate editor

Helper's First Friday promotions are showing increasing attendance, and other promotions are causing more visitors to leave the highway and drive down Main Street.

The problem, according to Lita Riley, is that many of those visitors are leaving disappointed.

The reason, she told the city council at the February meeting, is the number of abandoned, eyesore buildings on Historic Main Street. Riley, owner of Apricots on Main, was speaking on behalf of fellow downtown businesses. She said the people who are trying to make a go of it in their shops and studios would like to see the city do something about the situation.

She asked, couldn't the city's newly reactivated board of health do something?

Not a lot, replied Mayor Dean Armstrong. He and council are aware of the situation, but the state is very restrictive on what the city can and cannot do, he explained.

"We can't order owners to dress up their properties," he said. The city can intervene for health and safety, but on matters of cosmetics.

The city has already instituted a policy of charging a fee for dormant utility connections, Armstrong said. Once it gets a set of policies and procedures in place for the health board, it will also be active in going after health and safety hazards.

Meanwhile, downtown businesses - the Helper Utah Business group - are going to send letters to owners of run-down property.

The letter advises the owners that the city's image depends on people keeping the place presentable.

"While empty storefronts are not a negative by themselves, when they are not maintained they are a blight on this nationally registered historic district. Many visitors see the lack of upkeep of some of the properties in the district and are less likely to return and patronize the active businesses here. Please consider the vitality of the district and take what steps you think would be appropriate to help it grow," the letter states.

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