Council could demolish 8 homes

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Austin City Council declared eight homes hazardous to the public during its meeting Monday, part of an overall goal to hold homeowners accountable to city ordinances.

“We are cracking down on junk and hazardous properties,” Council Member Judy Enright said during Monday’s meeting. “It’s one of our main goals this year, and it’s going to continue.”

The move is the first step in potentially getting the property owners to pay for all necessary repairs or, as city officials believe is more likely, to demolish the homes and charge the owners through liens.

Email newsletter signup

The property owners in question have 60 days to fix their properties, according to Community Development Director Craig Hoium. Failing that, the city would take each owner to court to see if they would contest the council’s resolution. Hoium said many property owners never show up for the hearing, at which point city attorneys could ask the judge for permission to either fix or demolish the home, at the owner’s expense.

If an owner would refuse to pay, the city would assess the costs onto the property through a lien, but the city would still have to eat the cost of fixing or demolishing hazardous properties.

“Is there any direct cost to taxpayers? No, but we’re in essence financing having that work done until either the owner pays it, the property is sold and has to take care of that lien on the property, or going through tax forfeiture,” Hoium said last week.

Yet the city is already facing opposition from some homeowners. Attorney Tom Lenway spoke to the council during the meeting about his client Robert Ford’s property, contending the city last inspected the home in 2010 and didn’t step inside to further examine issues.

Hoium said all properties were recently examined before they were presented to the council. In addition, he reiterated each homeowner will have 60 days to fix potential issues.

For some homeowners, the solution will be as simple as removing excess garbage, replacing a storm door and fixing the siding on a garage. Other homes will need substantial work before meeting the city’s housing code.

In other news, the council:

—Learned about potential floodplain map changes. Almost half of all Minnesota counties will need to update their floodplain maps and codes in accordance with more accurate maps prepared by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources over the past few years.

—Approved a request to close Fourth Avenue Northeast from the west side of the Riverside Arena parking lot to Fourth Street Northeast during the Austin ArtWorks Festival. Fourth Avenue Northeast will be closed to traffic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 24 and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 25.

—Approved the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to remove junk and illegally stored vehicles from the following properties:

—2004 Third Ave. NE

—603 Eighth St. NW

—814 10th Ave. SW

—814 12th Ave. SE

—801 Second Ave. NW

—901 Second Ave. NW

—1003 Sixth Ave. NE

—1400 Eighth St. NE

—801 15th St. NE

—2107 Second Ave. NW