By Rikki Cason
More than 20 residents lined the corner of State and Elizabeth streets Wednesday night to express their concerns to the Medina Village Board about the abandoned, burned-out property at 188 State St.
Over the past few months, board members have been in contact with several neighborhood residents who signed a petition asking that the village remove the burned-out house that suffered a fire in 2006. The petition called the property an “attractive nuisance” and a hazard to many living nearby.
Code enforcement officer Marty Busch spoke to the board, disagreeing with the petition. He said that although the house did suffer from a fire, the structure is still sound.
Wednesday’s meeting was to clarify with residents the village’s limited options regarding this property.
“This house poses some unique challenges for the village,” said Trustee Andrew Meier. “We’re certainly trying to respond to the petition that was circulated.”
Under state law, a homeowner is allowed three years of not paying taxes before the government can step in and take control of the property. The homeowner, Shara Tanner, allegedly moved to Florida, taking the insurance settlement and not doing anything with the home.
Even though the fire occurred July 18, 2006, because of when the owner quit paying taxes, the property can’t be listed on the county tax auction sale until 2011.
Meier said that the board was under the impression that it would be included in the 2010 auction.
Busch told residents that the structure, itself, is salvageable. He said that after the fire, there was no damage that was not repairable or that makes the property unstable. Because Tanner still has ownership, the village is also not allowed on the property to check and see if the structure is still sound almost four years later. The village also is not allowed to trim the trees or maintain the property in any other way than to board up windows and check for loose siding, because of the safety and health hazards; and to cut the grass when the property is in violation.
This legal issue also prevents anyone from coming on the property to fix it up, because the owner could return and have that person arrested for trespassing.
Residents disagreed with Busch about the property being able to be rehabbed and asked the board how they would feel living next the abandoned property for almost four years. Seeking immediate results, the asked why the property could not be demolished and why someone could not take ownership of the property before 2011.
Meier explained that if someone wanted to buy the property today, they would be responsible for paying all of the back taxes — anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 — and possibly paying the owner extra money if she asked for it. If a person waits until the county auction, they would not be required to pay back taxes and would pay a fraction of the cost.
The board does not want to demolish the home because then there is little chance someone would want to rebuild on the property and they would forever be maintaining it.
Busch said several contractors have looked at the property in its current state and are interested in fixing it up as a single-family home.
“Certainly, all of us on the board agree the property looks really, really bad,” Meier said. “It’s really an embarrassment.”
Meier and the board asked residents to have patience, understanding and support. He said it is important to find not only a good short-term solution, but a good long-term solution for the property and homes around it.
The board and residents agreed to visit the issue again next year after the 2011 tax sale and after a new owner has taken control of the property.