Friday, March 12, 2010

City DEMOS 2186 Harrison after promise to HOLD!

Neighborhood residents and city preservationists are up in arms over the city of Cincinnati's Demolition of 2186 Harrison after Mr Ed Cunningham, a city division manager, advised local residents that the demolition would be put on hold.

In an email communication from Mr Ed Cunningham, Division manager, Department of Community Development, Property Maintenance Code Enforcement, to a Westwood Resident yesterday in which just about Everyone in local government was cc'd on Mr Cunningham stated:

"I contacted the contractor and asked them not to start demolition in the morning as planned"

However by the end of the day the Building was reduced to Rubble!

Preservationist however, are incensed that the Potentially Historic 1905 residence was demoed without a section 106 review, required by federal law whenever Federal Stimulus funds are being used.

According to the email Mr Cunningham noted:

"I understand your concern. Thank you for contacting us. This building is being demolished by the City with Federal Neighborhood Stabilization funds intended to help communities recover from the foreclosure and housing crisis"

Preservationist see this statement as the "smoking gun", Federal law prohibits city government using federal dollars to demolish property more than 50 years old without a Section 106 review. This Review is to allow members of the community to bring forth data or information the city may not have as part of its normal architectural surveys. This step is critical in the allocation process because without it Federal funds may not be used to demolish structures that may be historic.

Knox Hill Neighborhood Association filed a 'citizen complaint' with HUD earlier in this year raising the question if proper section 106 review was taking place. The city has argued that they do not demo using federal funds without a review. They have argued that the "Nuisance Hearing' serves that purpose as well. However since no member of the Nuisance Board has proper accreditation's, Knox Hill have argued that that is not valid and the Nuisance Board hearing is for the purpose of ordering the property owner to demolish the property and at the time of the hearing the city has neither contracted or bid the project Nor has any idea when the demo might take place and what 'funding' may be used to fund the demolition. Those Decisions are made only if the property owner does not demolish and therefore no proper 106 review has taken place.

While the city in written response to Knox Hill promised that "changes would take place' they failed to say just what those changes were. They also claimed no federally funded demolition took place in Knox Hill. However a request was emailed to Ed Cunningham asking for a breakdown of city demolition for 20o8-2009 and the funding used and the city has not responded.

With this new information that 2186 Harrison was demoed yesterday and it is on record by a city official that Stimulus funds would be used to pay for the Knox Hill Neighborhood Association contacted Robert Milburn and Ross Carlson at HUD and asked for an immediate investigation and an audit of city Federal program funds use.

"We now know we cannot take the city at their word." stated a Knox Hill board member, "If a city official tells neighborhood residents in Westwood that a demo is on hold and then proceeds with demolition then that is something the city council should look investigate. The fact he is on record stating it would be paid for with stimulus funds when we KNOW no section 106 reviews are taking place is incredible and the city should have ALL its funding yanked for demolition until this is resolved!"

City Demos and property owner may not have been notified.

In an even more bizarre twist the city may have demolished a property without notification of the current owner! According to Hamilton Country Records the property at 2186 Harrison was sold to TJBA Ventures of Provo Utah on February 02, 2010.

However a check of the CPOP database shows that on February 26th the last record entered into the system the city was notified of an open door at the residence and the records still show Stonecrest Investments in that database as the owner .

The city inspection notes say that:

2186 HARRISON AV , 1/8/2010 12:00:00 AM 6957 HAP Notice to Proceed Sent Con Notice to Proceed with Demo mailed to Allgeier. Copy sent to scan.

However on 2/04/201 AFTER THE CHANGE OF OWNERSHIP a followup note:

2186 HARRISON AV 2/4/2010 12:00:00 AM 6962 HAP Demo. Contract Inspection
No work started on demo.

Apparently the city failed to do its due diligence and check for a change of ownership which would have required a new notification be sent out as to the nuisance status, since property can be sold in the interim and since no notes are placed on county record of the nuisance declaration a new property owner has no way of knowing a property is about to be torn down!
So it would appear based on the evidence above the city, with the stated intent to use FEDERAL tax dollars, demolished a property belonging to a private property owner in another state without even notifying them of the demolition, potentially opening up the city, and we the taxpayer to an "unlawful taking lawsuit" should TJBA Ventures elects to do so.

Local preservationists and residents plan on contacting Council members next week and ask that the council investigate the circumstances, and the roles of city employees in this.
(Photos Courtesy M. Kuhl)

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