In Your Corner: Neighborhood Code Battle

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated Oct 9, 2009 at 9:39 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Over a dozen concerned residents were waiting for us when we arrived to view a building that was once a laundromat, it's been abandoned for years.
Ed Meredith "our complaint is that it's boarded up and it's an eyesore to the neighborhood".

Along with being an eyesore, neighbors say it's not safe. Children play near the building which they say is rotting away and has raccoons living upstairs. Some residents have spent over 15 years trying to get the property cleaned up.

Neighbors decided to take matters into their own hands. In the past they've painted the building and they regularly mow the lawn.

The question is why can't the city force the owner to keep the property up to code? As an older mixed used neighborhood, Fort Wayne Neighborhood Code Enforcement officials have had limited power since it's a commercial property in a residential area. However, on July 1st a new city council ordinance went into effect giving the city more power over commercial properties.

Cindy Joyner/Director Neighborhood Code Enforcement for Fort Wayne said "now we will be able to give notice to the banks that our holding these properties that are not in compliance".

Cindy Joyner's department has a staff of nearly 30 that inspects hundreds of complaints about buildings. It turns out this property is now zoned as residential and a case was opened by the city on September 2nd. If they find violations, a process starts with a 60-day notice and can end with penalties of up to $2500, with the possibility of liens attached to the property.

Ed Meredith is pleased with the new developments, but frustrated that it took letters to 9 offices, including the Mayor's. Ed Meredith says "this is responding action to the building, maybe we can get it cleaned up"
Karen Goldner/City Council "in this instance, we have a process and will be able to be more thorough and it hopefully will motivate that property owner to do the right thing and fix up the property, otherwise, they could be facing pretty hefty fines".

The city acted quickly this week on complaints of toxic barrels inside and reported nothing hazardous was found and that the owner was cooperative. After a difficult economic stretch more homes and buildings have found their way into the foreclosure market, leaving many homes coming to Allen County in bad shape. If the property is vacant, code enforcement can only regulate the exterior of the property.

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