Two Properties Targeted During Code Enforcement Hearing

For a second year in a row, complaints about the grass at this house at 721 N. Cook St. have been received by city officials. Vacant, the homeowner has said she tries to keep it cleaned up. Photo by David Slone

Two vacant properties were addressed at the Warsaw code enforcement hearing Tuesday morning, with the city hoping to demolish one on East Main Street.

Building Commissioner Ray Behling gave Hearing Officer Tom Earhart an update on the vacant home at 1015 E. Main St., owned by Jason and Bobby Wade.

“We’ve been concerned about the property, and that there have been people in and out. There are signs of problems with the structure. We couldn’t really tell anything because we couldn’t get inside, we weren’t allowed on the property,” Behling said.

He said they then secured an inspection/search warrant, which was served Sept. 17 on the vacant property.

“There are people coming and going through a side window, through the back door of the garage, but there’s nobody staying in the house. We did see some signs that maybe somebody was sleeping in the garage, maybe one room in the house, but there’s no utilities, no water, no electric, no gas. So they’re not living there, but people are staying there, which has brought other issues to the neighborhood with all the things going on,” Behling said.

Warsaw Police Department cleared the house, he said, and Behling and Code Enforcement Officer Dana Hewitt took the County Health Department with them when they inspected the house.

“We found the house to be in shambles. A lot of electrical issues. We found some structural issues in the basement with the main supports, which was kind of what we suspected and were looking for,” Behling said.

He said they took some pictures of the property and documented all they found.

“What we’re going to do is we’re going to pursue it with the Health Department, but we’re going to kind of take the lead on it, that we want to demolish that house based of its condition, and we’re going to work with the Health Department on it as well. We appreciate their help on this,” Behling said.

Earhart said he’s passed the Main Street property from time to time and has seen a “for sale” sign on it. Behling said there was a handwritten “for sale” sign at one time in the front yard, but now it’s hidden behind the bushes in the front.

Behling said there are “communications going on” with notes stuck in the doors. There’s debris outside, which changes from time to time, but he didn’t elaborate on what kind of debris it was.

He said they were charged with theft of power service, but Hewitt clarified that there was an investigation of theft of service, but no charges were filed because it was unclear who was stealing the power. Police were involved in the investigation, he said.

Earhart advised Behling and Hewitt to stay on top of the home and “we’ll see how this develops into next month.”

The other vacant house before Earhart Tuesday is at 721 N. Cook St., owned by Patricia Smith.

Hewitt told Earhart that the property had code hearings in 2018. Smith was brought forth on violations of environmental and general nuisance.

“We thought we had that resolved, back last year, but due to ongoing complaints of the property of environmental nuisance, we rescheduled it to be heard today,” Hewitt said.

The house has been vacant since 2018, he said. Smith lives with her daughter on May Street.

Hewitt said the house is showing signs of wear .

Smith said, “But we’ve been mowing it. That’s the thing. We mowed it, and then it’s like, after we mow it, then we get a notice.”

Hewitt said he’s been putting notices on the door, and that the man who was mowing the Smith property had seen the notices on the door.

“Violations happen first, and then the mowing happens second,” he said.

Earhart asked her what her future plans for her vacant property were.

“Right now, I don’t really have any plans. I’m trying to keep it cleaned up. I don’t have the money to fix it up, and I’m letting my brother store some stuff inside of it because his trailer burnt over Labor Day, until they get a place and they should get a place here in a couple of weeks. So I’m letting him store stuff there, but I’m trying to keep it mowed at least so it doesn’t look bad,” Smith said.

Asked when the last time it was mowed was, Smith said Saturday. Earhart then asked her what was the condition of her property today. “Right now it looks good. It’s mowed,” she said.

Smith said a friend tries to mow her property about every two weeks.

Earhart told her she’s got to keep the property up or he could fine her and the fines could pile up, which could get expensive for her.

He set another hearing for her property for 10 a.m. Oct. 29 to see what happens.

Behling said he’s noticed the electric meter has been pulled so there’s no electricity on the property. He asked if there were gas and water. Smith said there was not.

Behling said if the property is vacant and all the utilities have been disconnected, “the start is environmental nuisance, which is the grass, and then a building that sits vacant tends to fall apart.” He said with her permission, he’d like to take a look inside the property and see if there’s any damage on the inside before any little things become big things.

“The building can’t sit vacant for the rest of its life. So you probably want to think of something for the future what you want to do with that,” Behling advised Smith.

In other matters:

• The hearing on the property at 416 W. Winona Ave. was continued to the Oct. 29 hearing because owner Brendt Smith did not appear.

Hewitt said he sent a notice of the hearing by certified mail to Smith at 1100 W. Canal St. on Sept. 10, but did not receive receipt of Smith’s signature.

• Behling provided an update to Earhart on the units at 500 Chinworth Court, owned by Ralph Fitch, of Larwill.

Behling said Fitch contacted the city’s code enforcement and inspections were completed on some of the units Fitch has. They met the minimal requirements, “so we’ve been able to sign off on a couple of those units. I think we still have one more, and we also have some exterior damage that needs to be taken care of. We’ve been in contact with him.”

Fitch was supposed to be at Tuesday’s hearing, but did not show. The case was continued to 10 a.m. Oct. 29.