Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eudora council to consider condemning downtown wall

April 24, 2008

The downtown Eudora revitalization project will go out for bids at the beginning of May. Meanwhile, the wall located between 706 and 714 on Main Street still sits barricaded and untouched.

However, its fate soon could be determined as the city council will decide Monday whether it should condemn the cracked, drooping edifice.

The wall's journey to possible condemnation began about two years ago. Engineers were concerned that a heavy rain could cause the wall to collapse onto the sidewalk. It then was barricaded, deemed a dangerous building and notices of safety code and zoning violations were sent to the owners.

But then the issue got complicated.

The 50-foot wall is owned by two different entities: Darrel Keim, of Lawrence, and two teenagers who have the rights to it as the result of a trust.

All parties were unavailable for comment.

Six years ago, city officials decided to fix the wall at a cost of $2,590. Keim then went to the board of zoning appeals and claimed it was city property. They disagreed and he took the issue to district court.

District Court Judge Stephen Six then issued a memorandum June 1 of last year upholding the board of zoning appeals' decision.

"Basically, that's his storefront," Beatty said. "The city wouldn't come along and repair somebody's storefront for them; we'd make them repair it on their own."

Keim then went to Grob Engineering Services to put together a proposal to fix his half of the wall, as he was unable to contact the owners of the other half of the wall.

City officials told Keim he could not just fix half of the wall.

"Our attorneys made attempts to get the two parties together, but there was no response," City Administrator Cheryl Beatty said. "The city council asked that a resolution for condemnation be drafted. Once that happens, we can condemn the wall. We tried to work with them, but they have been nonresponsive to our requests to meet safety and code regulations."

If the property is condemned, the city will notify both owners. If parties do not respond to condemnation notice, then the city will fix the wall at an estimated cost of $15,000 to $20,000 and bill the owners.

The city council can either sue for cost of repairs or attach the costs to the owners' taxes. If the owners don't pay their taxes, the city will retain ownership of the property in four years.

"What condemnation allows us to do is take official action to recover our money and take them to court if necessary, which is what we've been trying to avoid all this time," Beatty said. "Since we're talking about a repair that's $15,000 to $20,000, it wasn't a matter that the council was quick to do. We'll have to find the money in the budget to do it and cinch up our belt somewhere else."

Beatty said the trees that sit behind the wall are causing the shifting of the structure.

"Before, the city kind of put a band-aid on it," she said. "I think it's going to mean removing one of the trees and taking some of the dirt out and then putting up a new wall for the repair to be a lasting repair."

The city also had offered to buy the wall before Beatty arrived, but neither owner was interested in selling. Beatty said the city still would like to buy the property.

"The offer would still stand if the property owners wanted to sell it to us, but it's my understanding that they don't," she said.

Beatty said the condemnation process takes about 60 to 90 days, so repairs could be finished in time to coincide with the conclusion of the downtown revitalization project.

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