Kent zoning board tables decision on demolition

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

An appeal to save a blighted Franklin Avenue house in Kent was tabled for an additional 60 days by the city's Board of Zoning Appeals Monday.

The house, 509 Franklin Ave., was severely damaged in April 2007 when fire from a neighboring property spread. The fire left the roof and several windows open to the elements and the house lost siding on the north exterior wall. The house, owned by Caven McLaughlin and managed under Cho-Oyu Ltd., meets the city's criteria for "blighted property" because it hasn't been occupied since the fire and utilities had been turned off.

According to city records, no major repairs were made to the house until early 2011, nearly four years after the fire and repeated notices that the home was in violation and would soon be condemned.

Diana Prehn, McLaughlin's attorney, said repairs weren't made to the home because a court order first had to be obtained to access John and Dorothy Spindler's neighboring property to begin rehabilitating the house. Then, in March 2012, it was discovered that the Spindlers began squatting on the property and using it for storage. The Spindlers were legally evicted and charged with trespassing.

Since appearing before the zoning board in April, Prehn said progress has been made on the house's gas, electric and water lines. "Significant litigation" had prevented McLaughlin from previously accomplishing work, Prehn said, asking the board for more time to make repairs.

"All we're asking for is 120 days," she repeatedly asked of the zoning board.

Kent's Chief Building Official Robert Nitzsche, estimated costs of bringing the house up to code between $30,000 to $50,000, citing major necessary repairs to the home's water lines, electrical wiring, duct work, mold damage from years of being open to the elements and severe structural issues.

"The house is caving in on itself," Nitzsche said, rating the severity at 9.5 on a scale of 10. "I don't want to go back in there."

Zoning board members said even with litigation causing unique circumstances, it seemed that there was significant neglect on the owner's behalf, and more effort could have been made to rehabilitate the house.

"You can't blame six years of neglect of a building 100 percent on the neighbors," zoning chair Elizabeth Howard said.

After a 9 p.m. recess, the board reconvened to vote, but gave the 60-day reprieve after a final plea from Prehn that "significant information," which couldn't be revealed because of attorney-client privilege, could have a major impact on the board's decision.

The issue will be on the board's July meeting.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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