NORTH ROYALTON – After successfully having four vacant, condemned structures demolished, including the old Clark gas station, the city is reapplying for funding through the county to raze an additional five structures.
Three years ago, the city administration and council revisited the nuisance ordinance pertaining to abandoned and severely neglected nuisance homes to clarify and strengthen the city’s ability to address them.
Since that time, three structures – one on Akins Road, one on West 130th Street and the Clark gas station – were cited and eventually taken down by the city using $100,000 in county grant funding acquired. In addition to these, the property owner of a cited York Road structure razed the building at his own expense and another cited home on Bunker Road was repaired by the owner.
But now, the demolition funding is depleted, so the city is applying for an additional $60,000 through Cuyahoga County’s new demolition fund to address the five additional structures that have been identified. Two are homes that, up until now, were borderline properties in terms of meeting the nuisance ordinance criteria, but have since slipped into a condemnable condition and the owners haven’t been responsive. The other three are accessory buildings, which cost less to demolish than a home does. The precise locations of these homes and buildings will not be disclosed due to safety and security concerns.
The original funds were made available through a class-action lawsuit brought against banks involved in the mortgage crisis a few years back. Ohio received $75 million to use statewide at that time. North Royalton received $100,000 of that.
The new money up for grabs is the result of a $50 million bond issue that the Cuyahoga County Council passed late last year. Both grant funds and loans are available through this. Cities are expected to apply for grant funding first and then loans as the funding diminishes. The county is borrowing the $50 million and then repaying it over a period of time. Cities may apply for up to $1 million in funding the first round. Once 80 percent of an award is used up, cities may go back and reapply for more.
“The fund we originally applied for dried up,” said Tom Jordan, the city’s community development director. “The county has started this new fund, and we await to hear about our request for funding.”
North Royalton doesn’t have quite the problem with these types of nuisances that other communities endure.
“We don’t have the severe problems that Cleveland, Euclid and East Cleveland do. We don’t usually let homes get his bad, to the point that we want to demo or condemn them,” Jordan explained.
City officials try to avoid resorting to this type of scenario at all costs.
“Our hope is always that the owner will take care of it. We are not anxious to demo homes if there is value there or reasonable expectation that the owner will take care of it,” Jordan said.
These structures that are cited as nuisances are homes that are uninhabitable, homes that have been unoccupied for years and are in such an extremely deteriorated state that ceilings are collapsing and are infested with vermin.
The nuisance ordinance outlining the municipality’s right to demolish such dilapidated homes was clarified in 2012 to enable the building department to identify such structures and move forward with notices to demo if need be. Each demolition can cost anywhere from $20,000-$30,000.
When the city receives a complaint, the house is visited by the building department, which determines if it fits the criteria. If it does, it is then formally declared a nuisance. The responsible party or owner is contacted by the city and has the ability to contest the declaration or correct the home’s condition so that it complies with city code. If the nuisance is upheld and the owner fails to respond and mend the problem, the city then has the right to raze any home it deems unsafe and all or part of the structures on that property.
Testing is done at the site to rule out any contaminates. Materials are removed from inside the home. A contractor or contractors are hired to remove the material, conduct the demo and do any grading.
Ward 6 Councilman Dan Kasaris said safety is the No. 1 concern when it comes to such homes, which is why the city tries to act as quickly as possible to remedy them.
“Dangerous and unsafe structures are a serious threat to the health and safety of the people who live near them, and they bring down property values,” he said. “They provide homes to rats, disease, unwanted creatures and can bring crime to a neighborhood. Such structures need to be restored or torn down.”
City image and property values is another prime issue when it comes to these blights.
“Blight is a weed that chokes the life from neighborhoods. Like a weed in your lawn, the only way to get rid of blight, is to rip it out at the root,” Ward 4 Councilman Paul Marnecheck said. “These funds will help vaccinate against future blight, protecting the unique character that is our North Royalton community.”
Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw applauded the county council for recognizing that blight is an issue throughout the entire county, not just in Cleveland or East Cleveland.
“These funds will help the efforts we are already doing as a city. It also ties in with our 2014 city master plan in making our overall city image and character even stronger,” he said. “It is great to see the county government being more forward thinking, and this will help North Royalton as we continue the positive progress that we have made and continue to make for our residents.”