SIDNEY — The Sidney Vacant Property Board of Review ruled a violation requiring the property at 402 Riverside Drive to register in city’s newly instituted vacant property program had been satisfied after the owner brought the home up to code. The matter was revisited on Wednesday, Jan. 23, after a two week continuance.
The primary issue before the board was the property did not have running water hooked up. Disconnected utilities is one of the violations that would require a property to be registered with the program.
Sidney City Council established the vacant property registration program last August to deal with abandoned and vacant properties around town to minimize neighborhood blight.
The Sidney Vacant Property Board of Review held its first meeting Jan. 9, in which Royce A. Link on behalf of Arthur Spreen requested to appeal the city’s determination that Spreen’s Riverside Drive property is a vacant property.
The city sent a letter notifying Spreen of the determination in October. Spreen then applied for his property to be exempt from registering in the vacant property program, but the application was denied by the city.
Spreen had been living at 402 Riverside Drive without water utilities on at the home since 2011, after a water line going to the property busted.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, Link argued Spreen’s property should not be considered a vacant property because it did not meet the definition of a vacant property. Law Director Jeff Amick disagreed and debated with Link about whether Spreen was in violation of the code.
Spreen admitted to having the water off, and offered to fix the plumbing issues and asked to set up payment arrangements for his outstanding water bill. The board accepted Spreen’s request, gave him two weeks to accomplish the tasks and reconvene on the matter.
When the case was revisted Wednesday, Amick reiterated the goal of the program is not have owners register and pay the city money, but rather to bring unfit homes up to code.
He noted the issue before the board had been satisfied, but when the building inspector and health department inspected Spreen’s home, a list of new significant safety issues with the house were discovered.
“I think what this did do was to give the opportunity for other eyes to take a look at (the property): the Health Department, and our housing inspector. And they found some significant issues there that need to be resolved,” Amick said.
Link explained the Health Department’s issues to Spreen, including that he must clean out the solid waste and organize combustible materials that prevented a full inspection and covered extension cords in use. Spreen was given a month to complete that task. Also he was ordered to secure a permanent source of heat, that is not space heaters, by March 22. He was also told to ensure the cold water works in his bathtub. Spreen said the pipe was frozen but it works now. The building inspector also said the electrical wiring/breaker box needs updated.
Spreen, an elderly man, tried to get the requirement to upgrade his heat pushed back a couple of months because of his financial situation. Amick and Haller replied that the electrical situation, space heaters and extension cords are a fire hazard, and would not agree to extend the deadline.
“The Health Department and building department codes, especially, are delineated at our own life’s safety. And following those is critical for all of our live’s safety, including responders or city employees that would come and have to help you at any moment’s time. So it’s critical that the electric issues, the space heater issues — so the goal is permanent heat for your home and your safety. That is what we care about,” Haller said.
Residential Building Inspector Dave Brulport told Spreen he could get a more affordable heat source with baseboard heaters, rather than a new furnace, but he must update the breaker panel in his home first.
After some brief discussion about the reality of Spreen’s financial situation, and checking with Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth to learn unfortunately no Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program grant funds were remaining, Amick advised Spree and Link to look into other grant options available for the upgrades. The CHIP program provides funding from a community-wide approach to improve affordable housing for people with low/moderate-income.
Spreen agreed to try. Compliance will be followed up by the Shelby County Health Department.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.