PORT ANGELES — A burnt house on Fairmount Avenue is a blight on the Westside neighborhood and should be condemned, the Port Angeles City Council has ruled.
Council members voted 7-0 Tuesday to declare the acquisition of the property at 4017 Fairmount Ave. as necessary to eliminate a neighborhood blight and authorized its condemnation.
The resolution was one of several steps in a new city initiative to flip dilapidated properties to achieve code compliance in rare cases when a vacant property becomes a public heath or safety hazard and the owner is unwilling or unable to cooperate.
“This particular property is just a disaster,” said Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, who owns a business near Fairmount Avenue.
“There’s no front door.”
Assistant City Attorney Heidi Greenwood told the council that the house at 4017 Fairmount Ave. is filled with trash and infested with vermin.
The city began to receive complaints about overgrown grass, junk vehicles and squatters occupying the house in July 2015, Greenwood said.
Neighborhood resident Bonnie Stehr told the council that the vacant house has resulted in more property crime.
“Having an abandoned house that will house more transients is a real problem,” said Stehr, who reported broken windows and having a purse stolen while she was home.
“To allow a place like this that gives them a dry place to hang out is unsafe. We want our neighborhood back.”
The house at 4017 Fairmount Ave. has failed numerous building inspections, Greenwood said.
City building inspector James Lierly said in court papers that multiple notice of code violations were sent to the owner and returned.
“The property has been posted no occupancy for quite some time,” Greenwood said. “And we still have this burned up and abandoned building.”
If a Clallam County Superior Court judge finds that the house’s condemnation meets a public purpose, the owner will receive fair market value for the property.
The appraised value of the 1,274-square-foot house and standard city lot is $30,296, according to the Clallam County Assessor’s Office.
The city would take ownership of the property and have the option of demolishing the house.
The city also could sell the property as it exists with conditions in the title that include a timeline for rehabilitation.
“There is nothing that says the city has to do the clean up,” Greenwood said in response to council members’ concerns about clean-up costs. “It all depends on how we structure the sale when we get to that point.”
To meet the legal standard for a blighted property, two of the following must apply:
• The property has been unoccupied for more than one year.
• It is a threat to the public health, safety or welfare as defined by the city executive.
• It has been associated with illegal drug activity within the past year.
City officials said the house of Fairmount Avenue has been unoccupied for several years and remains a threat to the public health, safety or welfare, Greenwood said.
“According to residents who complain to me, it is also used for illegal drug activity,” Kidd said.
Greenwood said the city tried to gain voluntary compliance from the owner.
“We have cajoled, we have begged, we have pleaded,” Greenwood said.
“We have done everything that we can to try and get them to clean up this property, and yet this dangerous and burnt up building remains.”
The property is owned by the estate of Vail Hickey.
Owner Linda Hickey could not be reached for comment Friday.
“She has just basically told us she is not physically or financially capable of dealing with the situation,” Greenwood said.
Several council members expressed empathy for Hickey.
“It’s a sad situation,” Councilman Dan Gase said. “It may sound cold, but at some point homeowners have to take responsibility for their actions of either doing or not doing something.”
“She’s has plenty of time to respond to this,” Councilman Lee Whetham said, “and we are forced to make a decision for the betterment of the community.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.