Tuesday, January 5, 2010

INVESTIGATION UPDATE: Historic Home 1 step closer to Demo thanks to city incompetence.

That Blogpost, as well as an outcry by neighbors and historic preservationists also prompted an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer about the property. Despite the overwhelming outcry against demolition, the city "Nuisance Hearing board" made up of City Inspection department "insiders" have "rubber stamped" another demolition of a historic structure. In this case a structure the city actually has the ability to legally recover from the owner, due to a restrictive covenant.

The "Nuisance Boards determination:
DECISION- A PUBLIC NUISANCE Based on the evidence received at the hearing and my personal observations, the front porch is defective, the roof is defective, the exterior lacks protective paint, the lot is overgrown with vegetation, there are open and broken windows, the chimney is partially collapsed and the siding is deteriorated and missing in places. The building in its current conditions does not meet the minimum standards for Vacant Building Maintenance license compliance as set forth in 1101-79.4 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code. For these and other reasons the building presents a fire and safety hazard to the community and therefore needs to be demolished. 1.) The subject building is subject to demolition by the director of buildings and inspections because the building has been deemed to be dangerous and unsafe as defined in 1101-63.1 CBC and the director has exhausted the provisions of 1101-61.1 CBC, and the building has not been brought into compliance with the CBC or taken down and removed. 2.) The City has exhausted reasonable efforts to cause the building to be brought into compliance with the CBC and the subject building is a public nuisance under the standards of 1101-63.1 CBC. 3.) The building, because of it's age, obsolescence, dilapidation, deterioration, and lack of maintenance and repair, constitutes, a fire hazard, a serious health hazard, a substantial and unreasonable interference with the reasonable and lawful use and enjoyment of other premises within the neighborhood, and a factor seriously depreciating property values in the neighborhood. Therefore, the subject building will be demolished and it's premises restored to a safe condition, free from the subject public nuisance and the owner billed for the costs involved. Further, the owner's failure to maintain the building secure may result in additional costs for barricading the subject building by the City before demolition. The owner, agent, interested party or person in control of the property may have certain appeal rights under the Ohio Revised Code. This decision cannot be appealed to the Cincinnati Board of Building Appeals. You may wish to consult an attorney regarding appeal rights.

This is the typical "rubber stamp" determination issued by the city. It is especially interesting to note Section 2 of the determination.

2.) The City has exhausted reasonable efforts to cause the building to be brought into compliance with the CBC and the subject building is a public nuisance under the standards of 1101-63.1 CBC.

That is, in fact a falsehood,. A determination was made by a board (Nuisance Hearing Board) of city employees "protecting" city inspectors who are not doing the job properly, that, we the taxpayers, pay taxes for them to do.

In fact. the city HAD a remedy to bring the building into compliance with the CBC. When the property was sold BY THE CITY, to the owner there was a protective covenant attached to the property that clearly defined the city's ability to recover the property and resell it if the buyer did not restore the property in 18 months as REQUIRED as a condition of sale:

"Conveyance of the property shall be subject to the right of the city to re-enter the property. "

So Finding number 2 by the Nuisance Board is a "falsehood". The city DID NOT exhaust reasonable efforts to cause the building to be brought into compliance with city code because they has the right to take it back and did not do so.

This brings up the more serious question regarding the Federal CDBG funds (1.1 Million allocated for demolition in 2010).

Under Federal HUD guidelines for CDBG funding the city is PROHIBITED from using Federal monies for demolition of a house older than 50 years that could be eligible for Historic Registry eligibility, without this formal review taking place. It appears that city planning, on receipt of this house for the nuisance list simply “rubber stamped’ this house has having no significant architectural value or not eligible for historic registry status. I can find NO RECORD of city planning and the historic Conservation board holding any public hearings, or request for public comment on 292 McGregor!

So it would "appear" the city FAILED to follow proper Federal procedure required under CDBG funding. meaning the Historic Conservation commission (city planning) FAILED to do its job. City Inspections Nuisance Hearing Board, rubber stamped the demolition and FAILED to do it's job after it was notified that this property had the covenant (an email from me to Ed Cunningham on this subject). The city manager, Dohoneys office, FAILED to followup on the property as they were required to do as part of the sales agreement and recover the property when the owner FAILED to do anything with the property. Members of the City Council and Mayor FAILED to follow up as well.

So now it would appear that preservationists may have only one "nuclear" option. To formally complain to the Federal Government regarding the cities failure to follow federal guidelines on section 106 review by city agencies as required under the law, which, could result in a FEDERAL AUDIT of the city regarding its policy and procedures regarding the funds administration and the FEDS 'potentially' yanking Federal funding to the city.

So perhaps the City Council wants to start the year out right and do its job, rather than lose 1.1 million dollars worth of federal funding. One can only hope so, but if the Feds yanks the city demolition gravy train, I would not be mad at all. The council only has a limited time to start doing its job and investigate how it's city departments conduct the buisiness of the city or the Feds will surely do it for them. it is not like they havent known about this since November!


Dale from Avon said...

For what it is worth, another case in point: 512 Prospect. You had a picture of this house a number of entries ago, along with a long list of other properties up for demolition - the majority being from one neighborhood.

It was built in 1885 at the latest. It may have been there, on the hill, before the other houses where built around it. The view from its' tower must be great. It is obviously historic.

This place got rubber stamped too. Downspouts, gutters, and missing siding.

I went to visit this house. Do you know how much missing siding I saw? About one shingle and a half (like one square foot) along with a piece that was crooked all under a porch. The downspouts looked fine, the gutters looked fine.

There were no calls for vagrancy, no calls for illegal activity. No police calls to the property. There is a lot of junk (contents of house dumped from the house into the yard in the front off to the side). - LOOKS bad - certainly. There was an open window on the second floor. A small side porch that needs some work as one of the columns has rotted at the base. And some pieces of asphalt shingles look to have been blown off - yet bare roofing was not visible. The chimney tops (2) looked to need the most attention.

From what I can gather the worst thing about this house is that the owner died. Therefore it "must be torn down". The city can tear down a deceased persons house yet it can not sell it if there are no heirs? They can sell the land?

Keep also in mind that the demo inspector made this demolition recommendation without having been inside of the house. Nor the fire inspector. The house is boarded up.

How did this property get on the demo list in the first place? I have seen far worse houses, some with actual residents. A number of things do not sound right regarding why this property is on the list, yet it is being sucked into the whirlpool of demolition.

Paul Wilham said...

My suggestion is to start complaining and complaining loudly. To the State Preservation office, To HUD,to the State Attorney Generals office to anyone who will listen.

The city has been getting away with this far too long.