Hamilton nuisance board to property owners: Fix or face demolition

The new Hamilton Board of Nuisance Appeals had its busiest meeting yet on Thursday, pressuring two owners of three buildings that were declared blighted to continue improving the properties or face the prospect of having the structures demolished. The seven-member panel also took action toward the razing of seven other buildings in the city.

Receiving “death sentences” were buildings at:

  • 524 Vine St., owned by Ericka DeLeon of Fairfield
  • 852 Vine St., owned by Nicole Van Lieu and Heather Simboli of Shelbyville, Tenn.
  • 221 N. E St., owned by JP Morgan Chase Bank NA
  • 1126 Ross Ave., owned by Douglas M. Jackson and Danielle A. Jackson of Hamilton
  • 121 Sherman Ave., owned by Jason Frost of Hamilton
  • 1451 Parrish Ave., owned by Paul Schlembach of Hamilton
  • 1246 Campbell Ave., owned by Karol Rios of Hamilton

Because none of the property owners appealed to the nuisance appeals panel, the board merely accepted earlier rulings by city Health Commissioner Kay Farrar that declared the properties to be public nuisances. If owners of the seven properties do not appeal to Butler County Common Pleas Court within 30 days, the city will conduct a required asbestos study on each building and then bid out each for demolition, said Community Development Director Eugene “Bud” Scharf.

The board’s actions for the seven buildings combined took only a few minutes. But three other properties where the owners appealed to the panel together took about 70 minutes.

The panel spent an hour discussing two properties — 641 S. 11th St. and 261 Washington St. — with J. Willard Cruz, whose complaints that the city was being uncooperative with his efforts to rehab buildings this media outlet reported on earlier this month.

Cruz’s company, Aristocrat Real Estate LLC, purchased 641 S. 11th St. and 261 Washington St. in late June from a firm owned by his wife, Affordable Housing in the 513 Inc. and since then has been rehabilitating them. But progress has been slow, he has complained, because the city has provided one property with electricity but no water, while the other has lacked both utilities.

Cruz’s company obtained the two building and two others in a trade for a more valuable building owned by Aristocrat on June 23 — two days after Farrar declared it a nuisance.

Police Chief Craig Bucheit, a member of the nuisance board, told Cruz he didn’t see the trade with his wife’s comapny to have been “an arms-length transaction.” Instead, the chief said, it seems to have been an attempt to change the property’s ownership “so you could reset the clock” in the nuisance-declaration process.

Until Aristocrat turned on the utilities recently on Washington Street, they last were on in June of 2009. Some 32 complaints had been made against one of the two properties in recent years, but Cruz said he has made significant improvements to the interior and exterior despite lack of water. With water turned on, progress will be much quicker.

“At this point, we’re about as far as we can go without water,” Cruz said. “The house desperately needed power washing, but you need water for that,” Cruz told the panel.

Already, he said, “The property is in better condition than most of the properties on the street.”

Board members were disappointed to hear Cruz’s plumber and he at various time cancelled several appointments for inspections. Panel members urged him to attend scheduled inspections and to press his plumber to do so.

The board voted 7-0 to continue the hearing on one property to its Sept. 8 meeting, and another to when it meets Oct. 13. Before then, the city is to inspect the property and see how much progress Cruz has made.

Meanwhile, Larry Combs, owner of 353 Hanover St., attended the meeting to say he had made significant progress there. Utilities at the property had been turned off since May of 2013 and the house was vacant, with 25 complaints against it in recent years, including tall grass, rubbish, water leaking, the building unsecured, and need for internal and external repairs.

Combs had filed a rehabilation proposal with the city Jan. 8, 2015, and work was to have been finished by June 1, 2015, but that work was not done until recently. The city’s health employees have spent about $1,246 worth of manpower dealing with it.

But recently Combs has made significant progress in upgrading the property, which should be ready for occupancy soon, city staff told the panel. The board decided to continue the hearing until its Sept. 8 meeting, when it will review Combs’ progress there.

“We’ve probably put at least $7,000 in it,” Combs told this media outlet after he spoke with the panel about 10 minutes. He declined to say why he made such rapid progress after the long period of non-compliance, saying, “They gave us the letters, we did the damn work, and it’s done.”

About the Author