Pressured by written complaints by neighborhood residents, aldermen voted to have two condemned residential structures demolished Tuesday. In one case, this comes after nearly a year of back-and-forth discussion, in the other, a couple of months.
Aldermen also approved action in a third case that is considered more a nuisance by neighbors.
The demolition orders came during two public hearings set for the February board meeting.
Code Enforcement Officer Baron Baker said the first hearing concerned the single-family dwelling at 603 Highland.
Aldermen had asked for two bids on work necessary to bring the building up to code from owner Brad Chandler.
Baker said he had received two bids but building inspector Mike Armstrong said one was not properly licensed.
City Attorney Regan Russell interrupted to point out the house had not been formally condemned, although a notice had been posted this past year. The primary purpose of the hearing was to consider condemnation, he said.
Baker then listed the legal steps taken plus the problem conditions including pest infestation, hole in carport wall, busted windows and possible foundation shift that qualified the structure for possible condemnation. Baker had photos and told aldermen the structure was in same condition Tuesday as six months or more ago.
Baker said it was not fit for human habitation at present and the owner did not contest that, specifically, although he argued it could be brought up to code.
At that point, Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson moved to condemn it, seconded by Alderman-at-Large Scott Dunnam and the motion passed unanimously.
Next came the decision on what to do with the house.
Attorney Russell said the city had three options: Let the owner repair it, don’t let him repair but let him tear it down, or have the city tear it down and bill the owner.
The owner, Chandler, again asked for the opportunity to fix it up, adding siding and a tin roof in addition to making needed repairs. Once fixed, it can make money and make the city money, he said.
Aldermen questioned the owner as to why he had not made repairs earlier and he said it was partly because the house was occupied, then he had trouble getting estimates acceptable to the city, and, finally, the city building inspector said he could not legally work on the house while the legal process was going on.
Despite this, Olson moved to require the house be demolished, seconded by Dunnam and that passed unanimously.
Aldermen did agree to let the owner get bids to demolish the house himself if they were presented by the next board meeting March 4. This motion was again by Olson, seconded by Ward Three Alderman Kevin Dale White and passed unanimously.
The second public hearing concerned the duplex at 507 and 509 Hobson St.
Although this case had not continued as long as the first, the building was condemned at the previous meeting.
In this hearing, owner Andrew Watson was supposed to have brought two estimates to bring the building up to code also. This included repairing busted windows, plumbing, holes, no heat, electrical problems, leaks and a pest problem code enforcement officer Baker said.
Baker told aldermen that as of Tuesday he had received no estimates. Watson responded that he had tried but was unable to find a suitable contractor to provide a bid, that all had asked for a specific list that he did not have.
At this point Watson revealed he had sold the house to another family this past week.
This resulted in some confusion since the deed had not yet been filed and there was some question as to how much the new owners understood about the status of the residence.
Russell said the possible sale in no way “reset the clock” concerning possible demolition and the new owners said their intent was to repair the building and live in it.
Still, since the home was already condemned, attorney Russell said the board could proceed with the same three options as in the Highland Street case.
Alderman Olson said this structure was in worse condition than the other and moved to demolish it. Alderman White seconded and the measure again passed unanimously.
Although Russell said the property is still technically the responsibility of the old owner as far as the city is concerned, aldermen might be willing to let new owners take it down, probably getting their own bids because of having to work six days a week. The new owners indicated they would check with the building inspector to identify contractors and get bids. Aldermen said they would check on progress at next month’s meeting.
The third case did not involve any formal hearing but was related to the others in that written complaints from neighbors were involved.
The focus of concern was the former Jamie Owen store and Frames by Fitzgerald building at 509 Highland.
Baker said he had received multiple complaints of commercial vehicles parked there in apparent violation of ordinance and code, including a motor home, commercial barbecue food sales trailer and other items. He said it appears people are living in the motor home and building inspector Armstrong said city code does not allow anyone to live in camper more than 14 days. Also, the lot is not mobile home or RV park. People are believed to be living in the commercial building as well and having occasional non-permitted yard sales, it was brought out. The complaints said the vehicles are a distraction and also a safety hazard in that they block motorists’ views at the intersection. The lot is zoned C-4, which is for small professional or limited businesses with little parking needs.
Baker said the occupants have been asked to address the complaints by police and building inspector multiple times but Baker said there has been no cooperation from owners.
Armstrong said the owners are apparently Gerald and Kenneth Lemar and aldermen said if violations of city code are observed, Baker should write appropriate tickets with a 10-day notice. If the problem is still not corrected, aldermen said for him to start towing vehicles or taking whatever action was necessary, with their full backing.