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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Coldwater ordered to redo appeal hearing

Village seeks to have home condemned

By Doug Drexler

The owner of this house at 315 W. Walnut St., Coldwater, is fighting the village. . .

Members of the Coldwater Board of Zoning Appeals have been ordered by the local court to redo their August meeting during which a property owner was denied his appeal of the condemnation of his house on Walnut Street.
Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham - in an unusual move - told the appeals board to repeat its Aug. 7 meeting and formally transcribe it so he can review the word-for-word report, village law director Judy Koesters said. The case, filed Sept. 11 by homeowner Joe Lasko of Arkansas, is pending in Ingraham's court.
The new zoning appeals board meeting has not been set; a court reporter must be present, according to village manager/engineer Eric Thomas. He hopes to have the meeting in the next two to three weeks.
The house previously was a rental property but is currently unoccupied. The home at 315 W. Walnut St. was condemned by village officials Oct. 2, 2012. That step, if it had not been challenged by the owner, would have allowed the village to raze the house and bill the owner or place a tax lien on the property to pay for the work.
Lasko appealed. Twenty-two days later the board of zoning appeals gave him 60 days to remedy problems on the property. The appeals board noted on Nov. 28, 2012, that no work had been performed, according to the court file.
The board tabled the appeal for nine months while it worked with the owner to resolve the issues, Thomas said. At that point the board was unsatisfied and denied the appeal.
A letter from the village estimates $72,500 worth of work is needed to fix the property. On May 11, village officials told Lasko to submit a timetable for the repairs. He reportedly submitted the schedule May 13 and said the work would be completed by Aug. 7.
The home reportedly needs new plumbing, electrical and heating systems, and extensive renovations to walls and floors. On May 21, 2012, Homan Real Estate of Coldwater, at the direction of Thomas, appraised the property at $12,000. The real estate agency declared the home "beyond repair."
"There has to be mold," Thomas said. "There was water coming in because the roof was leaking.
"We've been talking to him friendly for probably three to four years and unfriendly for a year or two," he said.
Lasko had made some repairs, Thomas said, but they were insufficient. For example, Lasko had put on new shingles but did not fix the underlying issues with the roof, Thomas said.
Lasko also told the village that a former tenant was supposed to have worked on the house but did not.
"He said the guy was going to fix it up, that he was a contractor," Thomas said, who added that the tenant left without completing the work.
Thomas said the county health department would not enter the site, but Thomas considered the house to have health issues. He was particularly upset about one issue.
"He allowed children to live there," Thomas said.
The village sought to raze the property after the August deadline was not met but it was forced to halt plans after Lasko filed the appeal. Lasko earlier was given the opportunity to have the structure demolished at no cost to him via a Moving Ohio Forward Grant, but he declined. He told village officials the house was worth salvaging.
Koesters said the appeals board normally just takes meeting minutes but will redo the session to provide the judge with a more detailed account.
"It's essentially a redo of what happened before," she said. "I'm sure the board will not change their decision."
The fact the case reached the court is unusual, she said.
"It's the first time I've heard of it happening in Coldwater," Koesters said. "I think it's the first time something like this has come before the common pleas court."
Such situations are normally worked out between a municipality and the property owner before the case reaches the court, she said.
Lasko's attorney, James Tesno of Celina, was unavailable for comment. Lasko did not respond to an email from The Daily Standard seeking comment on the case.
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