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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Condemned houses not torn down in a day

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This house, located at 132 E. Ridge St., is one of many properties in the City of Brazil that have been condemned. Jason Jacobs Photo. [Order this photo]
When residents see a house falling apart, they want it taken down immediately, but it is not that easy.

"There is a lot that goes into not only condemning a home, but to tear it down as well," Brazil City Interim Planning Administrator Eric Vanatti said. "On the very short end, the entire process takes three or four months."

Vanatti said the process begins with a complaint from a concerned citizen about a home that may be considered unsafe for inhabitation.

"Typically, most of the complaints we receive are for houses that have been abandoned for quite a while," he said. "Currently, there are more than 20 houses in the city that need to be torn down."

Following the complaint, the Planning Administrator and/or the Building Inspector (currently Troy McQueen) will go to the home to conduct one of three types of inspections.

"A streetside inspection is the most commonly used," Vanatti said. "In this case, it is just observing the building or home from the outside and inspecting things in plain view."

He added they have to receive permission from the owner before they can enter the building for an inspection of the building's interior, but it is extremely difficult.

"Most of the time, finding the homeowner is nearly impossible," he said. "In nearly every case, the homeowner either passed away and we can't find any of the descendents, or they flat out abandoned the home."

If an owner is unable to be located, Vanatti said an Inspection Warrant can be issued to allow the inspectors inside the home, but chances of having a warrant granted are very slim.

"It is very difficult to get an Inspection Warrant, and as far as I know, we have never used one," he said. "It can be frustrating because we almost always need to conduct an inspection inside to even consider condemning the home."

If the house is deemed unsafe, notices will be sent out and an Unsafe Building Order will be issued and posted on the house itself.

"We attempt to contact the homeowner by certified mail about the condemnation," Vanatti said.

The Unsafe Building Order gives the homeowner five options of action to take against the condemnation including:

* Vacate the structure,

* Seal up all entrances against intrusion and post a visible sign prohibiting entry,

* Exterminate all vermin in and around the structure,

* Repair the structure to where it is compliant with the building code, or

* Remove part of, or demolish, the structure deemed unsafe.

"If the homeowner does not respond or chooses not to comply, the issue will be brought to the Board of Zoning Appeals for a public hearing," Vanatti said. "The board will make a recommendation, based on the results of the hearing, to the Board of Public Works and Safety, who will take final action on the matter."

Vanatti added if it is decided to demolish the unsafe structure, public notice must be made as to the date and time of the planned demolition.

However, this is where the biggest delay could take place.

"The Street Department handles the demolition of unsafe buildings, but when it is done depends on if the city had the money for it," Vanatti said. "It costs about $5,000 to tear a house down, which consists mainly of dumping fees and fuel and upkeep of our equipment."

He said the city currently has enough money in the specific fund to be able to tear down only three more homes this year.

"We are trying to prioritize the homes that need to be taken down the most and use the budget to the best of our ability," Vanatti said. "I am currently working with (City Attorney) Bob Pell to figure out solutions to make the process more cost-efficient so we can handle more homes."

He also said the recent demolitions of the former Sherwin-Williams building and one of the Adamson's Dry Cleaners are solely at the discretion of the business owner and the city does not get involved unless the closure of part of a street is needed.

However, Vanatti emphasized that budget constraints should not deter residents from reporting homes that may need to come down.

"Residents and neighbors of the houses are invited to the public hearings and encouraged to make a comment of complaint at anytime," he said. "Any input the public can provide can help the process run smoother."

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Who do you contact if the house is outside Brazil city limits but inside clay county?

-- Posted by mom of3 on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 8:26 AM

I think the commissioners are the ones to call

-- Posted by axegrinder1313 on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 9:59 AM

I just want to say Eric you have done a nice job with this position. I only hope your replacement does as well. Kinda thought maybe you would stay full time with it.I know this residence in this picture and hope it does get torn down. Perhaps you should see if it is possable for nieghbors to purchase property for the amount it would cost you and let it become their burden. Best of luck to who ever does get these houses torn down!!!

-- Posted by chevygirl on Thu, Sep 25, 2008, at 11:19 AM

Ridge Street is very old historic area of town. Why not restore these old properties instead of tearing them down only to have a gap in the street or to put up another ugly pre-fab, poorly constructed home or trailer. Brazil's pride should come from its history and I see that quickly dwindling away. Indiana Historical Landmarks organization is a great place to start getting some of these properties deemed historical.

-- Posted by softcloth on Fri, Sep 26, 2008, at 7:03 AM

Just don't tear the wrong building down.

-- Posted by spiritof56 on Thu, Jan 29, 2009, at 9:49 AM

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