Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our 120 yr old neighbor, soon to be GONE!

They start asbestos remediation today on the house behind our Knox Hill cottage and I find myself with mixed feelings about it. The Historic Preservationist in me wants to save it. The practical side of me realizes it is too late. A bureaucratic decision made long before we came along and began the turnaround of our neighborhood.

In its day it was a once elegant Italianate Victorian home. Cast Iron and slate fireplaces adorned its formal parlors and bedrooms. It, like our house, was a simple summer/weekend place, but its owners installed the finery they were accustomed too. The property fell prey, like many in our neighborhood of changing times and changing perceptions. When the city emptied out the west end and OTR it became a rental and it like many in our neighborhood went into decline. It wasn't a bad house, it just had bad people living in it and a bad owner who didn't appreciate its once elegant grandeur. Eventually it went empty and that was in many ways it was it's death sentence. Neighbors complained about the overgrown weeds and the kicked in side door and the city deemed it blighted., citing some relatively minor foundation issues.

I once asked the city about those foundation issues and why a house would be slated for demo when all was really needed was for the tree planted too close to be removed and some minor stone work done. The response I got back was, "look, nobody is going to put money into that neighborhood! It isn't economically viable".

That mentality would have been the deathnell of our own cottage had we not come along. The city doesn't get it and frankly I wonder if they ever will. Maybe in a few years when the houses are worth 150-200K they might realize all they tore down would be productive, on the tax roles lived in by people with real income that pay taxes. The city wonders why it has a budget deficit? There are a couple of people in city government who do understand it but their hand are tied.

We could have saved this house but the timing wasn't right so we have resigned ourselves to its' demise and now we have a whole new challenge. We go from a blighted house to a blighted vacant lot. If you look at the "lag time " from the time weed infraction is turned it until it's actually cut. you are lucky if a house or lot gets cut once a year. This city does a miserable job in that respect. maybe they don't have the monies, maybe they think in a neighborhood like ours no one will complain and they can get away with it.

So essentially, the city fixes one problem and creates another. Some city councilman have said the city should get those lots into the hands of adjacent property owners who are willing to maintain them. The response was pursuing that lien takes money. BUT, if the city has to cut the lot for years, send inspectors out constantly, and the county gets no tax revenue, that costs money too. Neighborhood property values are lept lower and the city and county loses revenue. Logic dictates that getting those properties in the hands of responsible neighbors makes sense, even if it cost the city a little money to pursue the lien and obtain the property.

I have sent emails to city inspections about that and have gotten nowhere as of this point, they have referred me but no one else from the city ever responds.

What typically happens is the city demos a property and has spent about 8-12K by the time they are done. they file a lien but never take the property owner to court to try to get those costs back or at least gain control of the lot. Usually the property sits for years until it is sold at a tax sale, where it is sold , usually to a investor/speculator who doesn't maintain the lot and the neighborhood continues to suffer.

The bad act of a property owner who won't maintain his property is replaced by the bad act of a city that bulldozes that property leaving a lot that sits for years, that is eventually sold at tax sale to someone who lets it sits for year, the neighbors complain about the high grass and we start all over again with more legal problems. The neighbors, and the community suffers as a result.

I want to break that cycle. I want the city to pursue the lien get the lot and sell it to us as a reasonable price. That puts it on the tax roles. We also are willing to commit to fence the lot and landscape it so it doesn't become an over grown dumping ground. Below is what we would do. So if any of you have any connections downtown, we need to make this happen. We need to stop the cycle and the system, the way it is right now.

View from street with new parking area and privacy fence and landscape strip.
View inside fence looking west at new patios and gardens.
View inside looking back east at new patios and gardens.


Anonymous said...

Is anyone at least able to at least salvage some of the materials before the city goes in and bulldozes everything?

Paul Wilham said...

Neighbors removed the one remaining stenciled cast iron and slate mantle, a newell post and about 1/2 of the Walnut wainscot that ran up the staircase and down the second floor hall. I am posting new pics today of the outside once the 1930 era siding came off , looks like the original siding is in great shape.

Other than what the neighbors removed. It all goes to landfill. The original wavy glass windows, the hardwood floors, the doors, the real 2x6 and 2x12s all in the landfill. Our tax dollars at work!

Another FAILURE by the city of Cincinnati.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any pull downtown but if you want to provide a name & number of someone, I will at least call them and tell them that I think they should sell you that land...

Paul Wilham said...

Thanks for the support. The problem is that no one wants to point out who makes the decision to actually go after the lien collection which basically means the city winds up with the lot(doubtful the owner will come up with 11 grand for the demo lien) OR whom in city legal to work with. The lack of response from two city councilman and the director of Building inspections is deafening. But not entirely unexpected given they are bulldozinga restorable historic home to start with.