Sunday, August 12, 2001

Spare my old house, owner asks

City calls it a hazard

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Marie Angel has just weeks to bring her Price Hill fixer-upper house up to code, or the city will tear it down.
(Michael E. Keating photos)
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        As Marie Angel, 58, nears retirement, her one big goal is to own her own home.

        She found the house that would fulfill her dream; an old three-story frame building at 2519 Warsaw Ave., Price Hill, a fixer-upper she could make into home.

        Only one problem now: The city wants to demolish it.

        She knew a lot of work was needed. The house had bad electrical wiring, sagging gutters, a shabby roof. Much of the wooden structure had begun to rot and support beams were not exactly up to city code standards.

        Ms. Angel, a cleaning and set-up worker for the city at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, began to put money into the house.

        “I borrowed from my retirement and used my income tax refunds to get work done on the house,” she said. “I still owe some construction workers who did work without getting paid.”

        But none of the fixing up has brought the building to city code.

        “I have put close to $10,000 into the house and I have never had a chance to live in it,” she said. “And now the city wants to tear it down.”

        Ms. Angel and a group of supporters and family members met recently with William Langevin, director of the Department of Buildings and Inspection.

[photo] The house at 2519 Warsaw Ave. has already seen $10,000 worth of repairs.
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        He gave them 30 days to bring the building up to minimum standards.

        Mr. Langevin describes the problem as a Catch-22 situation.

        “There is a demolition order on the building and they want me to lift it, but I can't,” Mr. Langevin said. “The building is unsafe. If I don't tear it down, I am being negligent. If I tear it down, I am being unkind to them.”

        Ms. Angel says the only way she can borrow more money is to have the demolition order lifted.

        Mr. Langevin said the building was declared uninhabitable in 1992. Ms. Angel and her son, Larry, bought the house in 1994. The city issued code violation orders then.

        “They ignored the orders,” Mr. Langevin said. “The city told them in 1998, to either fix it up or it would be torn down. Nothing was done. In 2000, we issued another order.”

        The city conducted a public nuisance hearing last year which led to a demolition order being issued. Appeals to the Board of Zoning Appeal and to Common Pleas court failed.

        After last Friday's meeting, there is a ray of hope. Attorney Jeff Corcoran, who represented the group in the meeting, said they will work out an arrangement through the city solicitor's office which will include documenting work to be done and amount to be spent.

        “We have to give the city assurance that if we get the loan it will be spent on repairing the house,” Mr. Corcoran said. “I think if we can provide the city with that information, they will lift the demolition order.”

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