2011-05-14 / News

Mayor wants to clean up this town

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE – Sandy Thompson received some unwelcome news.

“I was literally sick to my stomach,” she said. Thompson said she and her husband invested plenty of hard work and resources into improving their Renner Street home, which was valued at $86,000 in 2001. “Since then, we did all sorts of renovations,” she said. However, “Our property was just revalued at $55,000.”

While the economy played a significant role in devaluing her property, she also blames neighbors who won’t maintain their properties properly, both nearby and Buckeye Lake Village-wide. “For 19 years, I’ve kept my mouth shut,” said Thompson, but she’s fed up with inconsiderate neighbors.

Thompson spoke her mind during a Monday evening meeting that Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker called to discuss continuing to demolish uninhabitable houses and generally cleaning up Buckeye Lake Village properties. “The intent is that everyone is on the same page,” Baker said to a group including various village officials and some residents. He made clear his plans to continue to tear down derelict homes.

“You have several alternatives as to how to proceed,” said Village Solicitor Butch Bindley. He said that first homeowners must be informed they are in violation of code. Then they receive a second notice. After the second notice, depending upon the violation’s severity, the village may step in and clean up the property itself, then send the property owner or tenant the bill. “Most courts want to see that the village has tried to self-help before bringing the case to court,” said Bindley. “There are costs to enforcement and you have to keep that in mind.”

Baker asked Bindley if the village’s zoning code regulations should be strengthened to have “ more teeth,” or be more enforceable in the eyes of the court. Bindley said Buckeye Lake has more zoning regulation than most villages, and he doesn’t believe any more legislation is necessary.

Former Mayor Jim Bartoe said that during his tenure the village would notify violators, and then send in the street department to take care of the problem if the violators refused to do it themselves.

Buckeye Lake Code Enforcement Officer Rod Riley said he’d prefer to bring violators to court. “Word gets around the village,” he said. “Should we take them to court,” asked Baker.

“The court prefers that the village tries to solve the problem itself first,” reiterated Bindley. “This is more a civil violation.” Buckeye Lake Mayor’s Court wouldn’t have jurisdiction in this situation. He said the village should organize all its zoning code regulations in one codified document. “It really would be helpful to follow that process,” said Bindley, even though codifying ordinances is expensive. “The courts realize that there’s only so much you can do (to enforce compliance with zoning codes), then the court steps in,” he said, adding that the courts don’t have the time to intervene until the village takes its own steps to solve the problem.

Director of Development Valerie Hans said the village is concentrating on removing a Hebron Road house that literally has a tree growing through its roof. “There are lots of obstacles to pulling that house down,” she said. She’s working through those obstacles.

Service Director Tim Matheny said the village can condemn houses, but it must pay for the process.

“Each case is unique,” said Bindley. “Abate some properties, take others to court-you have to evaluate based on the urgency of the situation. There’s no free lunch.”

Riley said code enforcement of rentals can be challenging because the tenant doesn’t own the building.

“You can sue as many people as you need,” said Bindley. “The tenant is causing the problem, but the owner is allowing it.”

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