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Peace and Dignity Program has helped Groves values rise

Groves property values rose by $56,689,420 in the past year, according to the proposed 2020 budget, and City Manager D. E. Sosa believes the way the city handles its delinquent properties is perhaps the biggest factor.

Sosa says the city’s Peace and Dignity Program and new homes incentives are restoring enough confidence in Groves neighborhoods.

“Everything positive that has happened with the new values, new subdivisions, new homes being built, the impetus of all that is the Peace and Dignity Program,” Sosa said. “Everything was built on the fact that Groves was growing, Groves was getting rid of all the eyesores, Groves was building back the neighborhoods. And with the reputation change, people got back confidence.”

The programs work together to clean up properties that run afoul of city ordinances while encouraging the building of new and better homes.

This photo shows the property at 3200 Walnut in Groves after the lot was cleared. (Courtesy photo)

This photo shows the property at 3200 Walnut in Groves before the building was demolished. The lot was one of several in Groves to undergo rehabilitation as part of the Peace and Dignity and new homes incentives programs. (Courtesy photo)

Groves provides a number of incentives for the construction of new singe-family homes on rehabilitated properties:

  • Lien forgiveness — Groves can forgive any liens on a delinquent property purchased to build a new home. Sosa explained that the city doesn’t want an already distressed property to be further burdened with more taxes.
  • “Why should you punish the person that’s buying the property?” Sosa said. “They didn’t abandon the property. Why should we penalize the person that’s trying to help us?”
  • Roll-off containers — A roll-off container can be provided by the city during construction. The containers are provided through Republic Waste, which Sosa says has been an invaluable partner in these incentive programs for nearly five years.
  • Water, sewer and driveways — Fees for water and sewer tap installation can be waved for the new owner if a house had previously occupied the property. Groves can also fund 50 percent of driveways on city rights of way.

The Peace and Dignity Program makes sure homeowners are following city ordinances regarding property upkeep as a way to maintain higher values. Sosa said the philosophy behind the program was inspired by the broken windows theory, in which visible signs of criminal activity, like vandalism, are believed to foster even more crime in the community.

Sosa and the City Council wanted, instead, to foster greater confidence in Groves neighborhoods.

“If you have positive things happening in your neighborhood, you feel good about it,” Sosa said. “If you have negative things happening in your neighborhood, like dilapidated structures and junk cars, high grass and weeds, then you feel bad about it. It’s a confidence thing to be honest with you. We’re trying to build confidence back into the neighborhood.”

A big part of the program is Groves’ code enforcement officer Adam Mayea.

Mayea, who has worked for the city since 1996, was hired to dedicate code enforcement to one person, rather than several city departments, and after nearly two years he believes he is making a dent.

“I think we’ve hit on the surface of it,” Mayea said. “The thing about code enforcement is it doesn’t stop; it’s never ending. You’ll clean up one area and the next day something else will pop up a block down the road or on the other side of town. It’s non-stop, it’s always going.”

Mayea looks for violations when it comes to high grass, junk vehicles, dilapidated homes, cluttered yards, fences, pools, trash in some instances, homes with no address, vehicles parked in grass, travel trailers and more.

Mayea also hopes that any resident who receives one of his letters understands that he is willing to help.

“If you get a letter and you have a complaint or question about it, call,” he said. “We will do what we can to help you out. You give me a call and I’ll work with you. Don’t get a letter and sit on it for three or four weeks and force my hand. Give me a call. Everything can be fixed. It may take a little bit more time, but we’re some lenient to an extent, we’ll help you out as best we can.”