The Hillsdale City Council voted 7 – 0 to approve an order of public nuisance and demolition of 65 and 65 1/2 Westwood St. in a public hearing on Sept. 16.
Last month, the council passed a resolution declaring the structure a public nuisance and gave owner Marvin Salyer 30 days to take care of the issue or demolish it, according to Hillsdale City Zoning Administrator Alan Beeker.
Since Salyer did not take any action, the council held a public hearing during the regular city council meeting to publicly inform Salyer of the next step, which is the city demolishing the property.
“It should have been demolished about a year ago, when there was a fire on the second floor,” Beeker said.
After the fire, Salyer was given six months to correct the damage from the fire, restore the house to a single-family home, and sell the property.
He found out the property was not insured when the fire occurred and cited that as the reason he could not fix the house.
Hillsdale City Attorney Tom Thompson said the demolition process has been put off due to issues with the code-enforcement process.
“The city has fairly limited remedies,” Thompson said.
When a property receives a citation for code violations, the city can give the owner a limited number of days to bring the property up to code.
If the owner refuses to fix his property, Thompson said the district court judge can hold a hearing to declare the property is in violation of the code and order the owner to demolish the property at his own expense.
When the owner refuses to demolish the property with his own funds, the city assumes the financial responsibility of demolishing the property.
“The city has to spend the money not knowing if they’ll ever get it back,” Thompson said.
One way of bypassing the court order to demolish the property is to hold a public hearing, which is what the city chose to do in this case.
Salyer said contractors are very busy at this time, and told the council he didn’t think he’d be able to have the structure demolished in the next few weeks.
Councilman Bruce Sharp said the property is four houses down from where he lives.
“It’s been a dump for a long time,” Sharp said. “It has squatters going in and out of it.”
The public hearing also gave Salyer a chance to address the city council.
In addition to the 65 and 65 1/2 properties, Salyer said he owns eight or nine other houses in Hillsdale.
“I understand it’s a nuisance, and I’m sorry,” Salyer said. “I was working on trying to save it, but let’s just put it in the dumpster.”
Beeker said he spoke to three contractors, but only one unnamed contractor gave him a “ballpark figure” of $45,000 to demolish the structure.
“That seems pretty expensive,” Hillsdale City Manager David Mackie said.
The city only has $30,000 in its budget for all code-enforcement projects, according to Beeker.
“That includes snow removal, mowings, demolition,” Beeker said. “This would destroy your budget, plus.”
The council voted to give Salyer 60 days to demolish the property. Moving forward, Thompson will draft a consent agreement between the city and Salyer to demolish the property.
“Basically it’s a type of contract that says he’s going to demolish it by Nov. 16, and if he doesn’t then he grants the city permission to demolish it,” Thompson said.
Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford said he doesn’t want to spend the city’s money to demolish this property.
“If Mr. Salyer is offering to tear it down himself, I’d rather give him a couple extra weeks and not have to spend the resident’s money,” Stockford said.