News 5 Investigates

Aug 29, 2013 11:34 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Why aren't condemned homes being torn down?

Dozens of Colorado Springs homes are sitting on the City's condemnation list for years. You asked us why code enforcement appears to be doing nothing about them and we're getting answers.

Living next door to an eyesore is a nightmare for neighbors.

"I have lived here since 1976 and this house has been looking like this since then," resident Dennis Gille said as he showed us a dilapidated home at 715 North 24th Street on the southwest side of Colorado Springs. He's one of many people living in the area that's fed up with this home. From an open door to rotting wood, high weeds and missing windows, people living here want the property gone.

"There's no excuse," Gille said. "Somebody needs to do something."

News 5 learned this home has been on the City's condemned list for 40 years. It was recently listed as dilapidated back in 2006.

"We have named it the haunted dog house since there are only two dogs that live there and it looks like a haunted house," neighbor Lauren Carroll said.

There are many others just like it. A home at 1304 West Costilla Street was listed as dilapidated back in November of 2012.

"This home had a fire," Officer Tanya Deering said. "I believe it has had a couple of fires and is now vacant."

It's sat boarded up ever since. When it comes to tearing down homes like this, the City says it's not an easy process.

"They (the homeowner) may not want to get rid of that property so they would rather board it up and it can sit that way honestly forever because we really have no mechanism to make them remove that property," senior code enforcement officer Tom Wasinger said.

We rode along with code enforcement officers this week as they looked for violations. They first try and get the homeowners compliance. After that, citations can be issued.

"Once a property is dilapidated, the fees can be so high that it would really persuade the owner to either get rid of the property, rehab it, or tear it down," Officer Marta Dubay said.

The citations were too much for a homeowner on El Paso Street. He finally agreed to demolish his condemned home. Many others refuse, meaning they just sit on a list until they are repaired.

"You are running into personalities with any type of property or home where somebody has a lot of sentimental value in that property," Wasinger said.

Going back to the home on 24th street----neighbors don't see the sentimental value here.

"We eat breakfast every morning have to look at it," Carroll said. "It's just not something we want to do anymore.

Gille agrees.

"What I don't understand is how they (the homeowner) can own several properties and keep them under such disrepair and bring down the value of houses in the neighborhood and we seem not be able to do anything about it," he said.

We tracked down the owner, Joseph O'Brien, who agreed to sit down and talk with News 5 about his property.

"You get one person that complains and they throw up a bunch of misinformation," O'brien said. "If they (neighbors) didn't like it (my home), why did they move in that neighborhood?"

News 5 asked, "Would you admit this house needs a lot of work?"

O'Brien replied, "No, no I would not"

News 5 asked, "What would you like to see done with this home? What's your goal?"

O'Brien replied, "My ultimate goal is to see it completed in its construction phase. It is being worked on. It's working at a steady pace. The place will be beautiful when it's done."

Neighbors are skeptical and want code enforcement to do more. Code enforcement sent us the following statement via email regarding this property:

"This property has been under ‘construction' for way too long but the owner has installed windows and made other repairs to show minor improvements over the years for the different officers handling the case. No summons have been issued to the owner of this property yet."

According to code enforcement, as long is the owner is making a good-faith effort to make repairs, there's no deadline to get the job done. That has people frustrated.

"I would like them (code enforcement) to do a little bit more," neighbor Heather Klock said. "Maybe they should be just a little bit more aggressive to kind of get the ball rolling on either getting it fixed or getting it just out of here."

News 5 asked O'brien, "Is there a set time frame you will have this property fixed?"

O'Brien replied, "I don't have a set time frame. I'm not going to get you a set time table. I think people have too much time on their hands and they ought to be dealing with their own issues."

For now, O'Brien's home and many others will remain on the condemned list. There's no telling for how long.

"There's only so much a code can do to require someone to sell their house, fix it up, or tear it down," Wasinger said.

So what can you do if you're having a problem with a home or business in your neighborhood? Code enforcement recommends filing a complaint and following up with the officer working that particular area.

To file a complaint, visit http://www.springsgov.com/units/police/CodeEnfComplaint.asp

The majority of homes code enforcement officers visit come strictly from neighbor phone calls and emails.

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department ultimately has the power to tear down properties. However, that too is not an easy process. In order for a home or business to be torn down, the Department will have to prove that the structure is dangerous and an immediate threat to the public.

Feces, rodents, broken windows, and missing doors are not factors that play a role in whether the home or business should be torn down.

To learn more about the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, visit https://www.pprbd.org/

Code enforcement also notes that some of the homes on their condemnation list are only on the list for minor code violations such as not having running water or utilities. The Department also reiterates that they first try and work with the homeowner to make repairs before writing tickets.

 

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