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'Problem Properties' in Maplewood Soon to be Addressed

City council discussed the residential properties and what to do with them as soon as possible.

Council members spent the better part of last Tuesday night's meeting debating the fate of several 'problem properties' around the city.

The first, a home located 2544 Circle Drive, has been an eyesore and a headache for area residents since 2008, Public Works Director Anthony Traxler said, with a "dilapidated" shed/garage, a need for window replacements and a new coat of paint, and a few other minor fixes.

"They're worried about safety issues," Deputy Mayor and Ward 1 Councilowman Karen Wood said about neighbors near the home. "Nobody really knows what could be going on with the house, so I think we need to act on it in any way we can."

The home owner has been given "every opportunity" at this point, Traxler said, to make repairs and bring the house up to code, which he has failed to do. He's been brought to court for a hearing and still refuses to make the repairs.

Council members agreed to demolish an abandoned and foreclosed home at 7548 Folk Avenue, which has stood vacant for a year and has an unstable foundation that is beyond repair. It has yet to be determined if the city or Frontenac Bank, who currently owns the property, will put bids out to demolish the home.

A three story apartment building at 2270-2272 Yale Avenue, also abandoned, has been "probably one of the biggest thorns in the city's side for 28 years," said City Manager Marty Corcoran.

According to Traxler, the owner of the property, Eighteen Investments Inc (headed by the infamous Michael Litz, who has been caught up in a string of fraud lawsuits and is fairly well known as a tax delinquent, said Corcoran), has let the property go to waste slowly over time.

Council members saw no point in going through the process of designating the area as blighted and redeveloping it; it costs less to demolish it and sell the property to someone new.

"Nobody's going to buy that building as is in this economy," Ward 3 Councilman Shawn Faulkingham said.

A second hearing will be held on June 26 for the first two properties. If the owner of the Circle Drive home does not show up or does not fix the problems after the hearing within 60 days, the city will put out bids to demolish the garage and make repairs to the house, Corcoran said. 

Frontenac Bank representatives will need to be present at their hearing to decide what to do with the Flora Avenue residence.

There will be no hearing for the Yale Avenue property, Corcoran said. At this point, Corcoran will put out bids to companies immediately to begin the process of removing the building.

Sabra May 29, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Just a thought: if some of these are only needing some repair, why isn't the home sold to someone at a reduced rate so they can afford to make the repairs? I recently rented a run down place on Tamm Avenue and have been slowly repairing the place & cleaning up the exterior for a reduction in rent. There are people out there who need a break and sometimes with a little work in exchange for rent or lowering the buying price can make all the difference.
Michelle Blodget May 30, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Hi Sabra! During the meeting Traxler said that the owner of the Circle Drive property not only pays his rent, taxes, etc., but actually also pays for all fines associated with not bringing the house up to code. Traxler said he has no idea why the owner doesn't just make the repairs (which would probably be a lot less expensive than paying court fees/fines) or sell the house. It's a strange situation for sure - and your solution makes a lot of sense. At this point, tearing down the shed and making the repairs to the house on the city's dime kind of does the owner a favor, as he will be allowed to live in the house without having to do it himself (though the city will be reimbursed for the cost within about 3 years, according to Traxler). We'll have to wait and see what happens to it.

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