Clintonville seeks to resolve building issue
By Bert Lehman
City Administrator Chuck Kell informed city council at its Aug. 11 meeting, that the city is at a “significant crossroads” regarding the raze order it issued to the owners of the A, B and C condominium unit on 11th Street.
Kell told the council he has had discussions with the owners of the building — Joseph Larson of Marion and Jim Krause of Clintonville — regarding the raze order. Krause is an alderman on the city council.
“Basically because of the high cost of demolition it appears that neither of those parties are going to be willing to undertake the demolition project,” Kell said. “I guess what that means is the building sits there and taxes don’t get paid, and ultimately it ends up in the county’s or the city’s hands.”
Kell added that he believed Larson hasn’t paid taxes on his portion of the property for several years. Kell also said Larson feels the county owns the building because he wasn’t informed about a previous raze order that was issued.
Later in the discussion, City Attorney April Dunlavy said a raze order was issued in 2008 for one unit of the building, but it was not recorded. She added that nothing was done with that raze order because it was impractical to raze a portion of a building that is part of a larger building.
“We can’t continue to have this building sit there in the condition that it’s in,” Kell said. “Quite frankly, I think if we get some heavy snows this winter we may see that building collapse on its own. And it could take other structures with it.”
If the building should collapse, Kell said Larson and Krause would be responsible for liability.
“Nevertheless, it’s a property that I think the city has to recognize that we need to get cleaned up and put it in valuable use for us,” Kell said.
At the request of Kell, Toby Kersten, director of Public Works for the city of Clintonville, obtained estimates from two businesses as to what it would cost to demolish the condo unit. Those estimates ranged from $80,000 to $96,000. These figures don’t include asbestos and abatement costs, the cost of moving a gas main, and other associated costs.
Kell said he thinks the cost is high because of the liability issue and risk associated with removing the building since it is connected to another building.
“We’ve had concern whether we should get involved in this as a city in terms of taking the building down,” Kell said.
Later in the discussion, Dunlavy said if the city removes the building, the owners of the building are still responsible for the costs associated with the demolition.
“The likelihood of getting that back, from at least one of the owners, is slim,” Dunlavy said.
Kell said it is his understanding that the city wouldn’t get anything from Larson.
“As far as Mr. Krause is concerned, you’re probably, after all the legal stuff, you have the potential liens to virtually everything he owns to recoup that money. But he’s a small owner. He’s about a third of the owner in this whole building,” Kell said.
Kell said one solution would be to have the owners of the property turn it over to the city at no charge, and then the city would remove the building.
“Then we would have a piece of property we could redevelop,” Kell said.
Kell added that there is someone interested in building a new building on the property to house a new laundromat, and possibly a new appliance store.
Kell asked the council if it wanted him to continue to work toward a solution. He added that the council would ultimately approve any agreement, and the agreement would have to include immediate development of the property.
“I don’t know that we want to do this and end up with a property that might take us another 20 years to find somebody to do something on it,” Kell said.
Kell addressed the previous raze order.
“I don’t think we can go down that road again,” Kell said. “This building, quite frankly, could collapse. It could hurt somebody. I could damage vehicles parked on the road. Like I said, it could impact the adjoining property and destroy another building.”
Kell said if the city didn’t have someone to immediately develop the property it could look at creating a new TIF district in the future. That couldn’t be done until some of the current TIF districts close.
“But that’s a couple of years off. We can’t create that immediately,” Kell said.
Kell recommended the council approve allowing the city to remain engaged in the issue in order to find a solution.
Kersten said the most immediate threat is the building collapsing and the walls pushing out.
“You have adjoining businesses all the way around. You have residents behind it,” Kersten said. “From what I see, if that were to go down, you have a lot of masonry and a lot of waste. I think it would be beyond people getting hurt, it would be possibly killed.”
The council voted 9-0-1 to have city staff continue to work with the owners of the building to find a solution. Krause abstained.