Cleanup is authorized

Property in Seaside after a fire in early 2018. Neighbors sought a cleanup.

More than a year and half after a single-family home on Holladay Drive burnt down, the city has decided to declare the property a public nuisance and move forward to have it abated. The demolition cost of $13,700 will be filed as a lien to the homeowner.

“The property owner at this point has basically walked away from this property,” City Manager Mark Winstanley said during the Seaside City Council meeting Aug. 12. “That is the concern expressed by the neighboring property owners.”

In light of the lack of response from the owner, neighbors have requested the city to “solve this problem,” Winstanley added. The house, at 412 N. Holladay Drive, was destroyed by a fire in early February 2018.

Nearby residents were evacuated, but firefighters extinguished the blaze before it spread to other houses in the area.

At the time, fire personnel considered the house uninhabitable and estimated damage to be more than $100,000.

During a City Council meeting July 22, Linda Trexler, a community member who resides on Fourth Avenue by the decrepit property, gave testimony about the ways in which it has become a nuisance to the surrounding neighborhood. About six months after the house burned down, Trexler said, she and other neighbors requested action from the city. Now, she added, she was “desperate” for that action to be taken.

Over the months, she said she has spotted rats in her garden, which she considers her “refuge,” and they were trailed from the neighboring property with the charred remains.

Additionally, Trexler said, plants are overgrown and invading her property. She requested an update on the city’s timeline for addressing the issue, adding, “I’m asking for the health and safety of the entire neighborhood.”

According to Winstanley, the city had made multiple attempts to contact the property owner and work with them to address the issues, which is “the normal process” for dealing with an abandoned property. “Our letters are all being returned at this point. We’re not in a position to make the property owner comply.”

“That’s been a big part of the delay,” Mayor Jay Barber said.

On July 15, Barber had sent out a memo regarding the burned and abandoned house, stating, “It is past time to declare the above reference property a nuisance.” Chapter 96 of Seaside city ordinance outlines a process and includes provisions for dealing with a public nuisance, which is perceived as the last step when a property owner will not address a problem identified by the city.

City Councilor Steve Wright asked at the July meeting for more information regarding the estimated cost for cleaning up the property in order for the council to “make an informed decision.”

At the Aug. 12 meeting, Winstanley shared that he put out for bids to get an estimate to bring back to the council. The contract was awarded to Keith Keranen Excavating, the lowest of three bids at $13,700. The costs cover “total demo and clean up of structure,” according to their Aug. 1 estimate, including hauling away and dumping in a legal dump site. Asbestos abatement testing will be conducted prior to demolition.

Work has yet to be scheduled.

The city will put a lien on the property, which currently is up for sale. The home, on one-third of an acre, is assessed at $85,764, with a real market value of $114,032.

“Sometime in the future, we should be able to recoup our costs for doing this work,” Winstanley said. The only issue at this point, he added, is uncertainty about how long that might take.

City Councilor Tita Montero agreed it’s important for the city to recover the expense of the project.

“I’m hoping they will sell it quickly, especially if we clean it up,” she said.

The owner, listed by the Clatsop County assessor’s office as Robert F. Boucher, was unable to be reached by the Signal at his property or a listed phone number.

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