City of Warsaw Planning Department sought to have three properties demolished at the Code Enforcement Hearing Tuesday, but Hearing Officer Larry Clifford took another route with two of them.
In the third case, property owner Steve Sanchez was reminded that sometimes life isn’t fair.
Sanchez, North Lake Street, owns the property at 1333 Gable Drive. Sanchez received a letter from the city Jan. 19 regarding the Gable Drive property, and then later a notice to appear for Tuesday’s hearing. The city was seeking to vacate, seal and demolition the property.
Representing the city, Ray Behling, Code Enforcement, said the property is in a residential area. The manufactured home with an attached garage had a roof collapse in February 2013 during a remodel.
A demolition permit was issued in 2014. The utilities are all disconnected, and the house was removed. Only the attached garage and the foundation with steel framing and wood floor joist remained.
In October 2014, Behling said, Sanchez reported he wanted to rebuild the home in summer 2015. He was asked to cap the sewer, but that wasn’t done until the last two weeks.
The city is concerned about the open foundation, which does hold water, and there was ice in there when Behling visited the site. He said there is a sump pump in there but there’s no electricity to run it. The city had a complaint about the smell from the property, it being a possible mosquito breeding ground and a safety hazard.
Cost to repair would be “a new house,” Behling estimated, at $35,000 to $60,000. Demolition would be about $4,000.
Sanchez told Clifford he always responded whenever there were any issues with the house. Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, he said he asked for advice and help, but was told the hearing would be the best option.
He said he disagreed with demolishing it as there are “too many materials there.” He said the concrete and garage are fine. He proposed going over to the property, taking out all the floor joists, repairing the foundation or seeing if a better block could be used.
Clifford asked Sanchez why he “didn’t do this years ago.” Sanchez responded, “I had a number of situations that arose that took priority” and “the place just beat me up.”
When Clifford asked what Sanchez would do with the property if he gave him an opportunity to fix it, Sanchez said he wasn’t positive.
Clifford asked Sanchez to give him a date for a house to be built on the property, and Sanchez responded, “same time next year.” He estimated stick-building the home would cost him $30,000 to $35,000, though it wouldn’t be fancy.
Clifford found the premises to be in violation of ordinance and state statute; cost of repairs exceed cost of demolition; and the property owner made no serious effort to make the property safe though he had time and opportunity to do so.
He entered an order to modify the city’s demolition order requiring Sanchez to post a cash performance bond for $10,000 by March 30 to avoid the demolition order and to guarantee that Sanchez would do the rebuild. If Sanchez does the rebuild and passes the inspection, he would get the $10,000 back. If Sanchez doesn’t post the cash performance bond by March 30, Clifford ordered the property demolished.
Sanchez questioned that order, stating that $10,000 is what he would use to do the work.
“I truly believe that is unfair,” Sanchez said.
“Life is unfair sometimes, Mr. Sanchez. You have the right to appeal the order,” Clifford responded.
Sanchez then asked if he could sell the property. Clifford said he could, but Sanchez would have to make the buyer aware of the order.
Sanchez asked if the bond could be lowered, and Clifford agreed to lower it to $7,500, but also set another hearing for the case on April 18 at 1:30 p.m. Clifford told Sanchez he wanted to see “a real plan” then.
Another case Tuesday was for the late Harold Vandyke, 324 N. West St., represented by Harold’s son, David Vandyke, East Pope Street, Warsaw. The West Street residence is vacant and no utilities are turned on.
Cost to repair the property – based on the exterior of the home – would be a minimum of $20,000, according to city representatives at the meeting. Demolishing it would cost $4,500, so the city requested demolishing it instead of mandating repairs.
Harold died about three years ago, and David has no siblings. David’s mother, who is 87, is alive, but remarried. David told Clifford that to his knowledge no one has been paying taxes on the property since his father died, and it’s been unoccupied for about five years.
He asked David what the house was worth in his estimation, and David responded, “I have no idea. I don’t have interest in it.”
Building Commissioner Josh Salsgiver said it’s a single-family home in a residential-three zoning. Originally constructed in 1910, it’s approximately 1,100 square feet. He said the city, prior to 2015, has not been involved in the property on a compliance basis. The first correspondence from the planning department to Vandyke was in 2015.
David reported the county was going to put the property in a tax sale in October this year, “which was fine with me.” He said his dad told him if he didn’t want the property to let it go to the county. Salsgiver said it was the city’s understanding that the property had gone through a tax sale and was not picked up.
Clifford said he was inclined to grant the city’s request to demolish the home, but along with the tax lien the county already has put on the property, there might also be a demolition lien put on it, which David would become responsible for as the sole property owner.
In his findings, Clifford said the home is substandard and not safe; the cost of repairs exceeds cost of demolition; and the property owner has taken no action to make the property safe. He ordered the property demolished and salvage removed. A lien for the demolition costs was to be put on the property.
The other case before Clifford was for the property at 2616 E. Center St., owned by Daniel and Heidi Walcott, North CR 175E, Warsaw.
Clifford told Daniel Walcott the hearing was for a complaint seeking demolition of the remaining foundation of the building.
Walcott said the original demolition of the building was “probably done 14 years ago.” He said they received a letter complaining about the ponding of water on the property in 2015, which was understandable.
“So the idea that I had was to fill the property with regular dirt and sod and have nice grass grown. We did that. We filled in where the water ponding was,” Walcott said. While doing that, he decided to get rid of the concrete pad because he was being taxed on that and serves no purpose. “My guess is, nobody’s going to be able to use that foundation if they build.”
There were some issues with the contractor, and then it got cold, so the remaining foundation didn’t get addressed.
Walcott said if it’s not an immediate threat to anyone, he wanted to be able to work on the property this summer instead of the city demolishing it and having him pay the costs. Clifford asked him what he meant by “summer.” Walcott said by Sept. 1.
Behling showed Clifford pictures showing an attempt to break the concrete was made, but there was rebar in the foundation. It was not fenced as of Tuesday. With businesses like restaurants nearby, Clifford was concerned about the safety of the visible rebar. He said even simple snow fencing would make it safer.
Asked by Clifford what the cost would be to repair it, Behling said the foundation would have to be removed and started over. Clifford was given an estimate of $80,000 to repair it, but demolition would be around $10,000.
Walcott said at the end, he’d like to have the property be dirt and sloped. He said he didn’t know if they had any plans for the lot other than the sign structure they have on it now.
Salsgiver said any fencing put up would have to be coordinated with the city as the city has ordinances regarding fencing. Clifford said he’d make it an approved fence, but it wouldn’t have to be an expensive fence.
Clifford stated a demolition is appropriate for the foundation as the cost of repairs exceed the cost of demolition. The present condition renders the premises unsafe and substandard and a hazard to the public.
He ordered that until the demo is completed, the area is to be fenced with city-approved fencing, like a snow fence; and imposed a civil penalty of $5,000 for willful failure to comply with a former order, but postponed that penalty to Sept. 2. He told Walcott he is responsible for scheduling an inspection with the Department of Code Enforcement and passing that inspection before Sept. 2. If he schedules and passes the inspection, there will be no civil penalty; otherwise, it will be immediately imposed. Walcott is to return to a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19 if he doesn’t schedule and pass the inspection.