DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Donald and Martha King recently showed 2 NEWS the ruins of a home that once stood next door to the couple on East 4th Street.
The concrete front steps were still intact, but beyond the front stoop sat a mound of splintered wood, rusty nails and discarded garbage. Several stray cats picked through the pile of debris.
“It makes our house look bad,”
“It makes our house look bad,” said Martha King.
She and her husband have lived in their home for more than a decade and said the adjacent property is becoming a safety concern.
The house that once stood on the now crumbling foundation caught fire in the early hours of March 26th, 2017.
“I sat up and was facing there,” Donald King recalled. “All of a sudden I saw this flash and heard this guy go, ‘Oh [expletive].'”
The Kings said prior to the fire they called law enforcement numerous times to report suspicious activity from the renters living at the house, but according to police records, no reports were ever filed at the address.
The Dayton Fire Department is still investigating the March 2017 fire as arson. When crews contained the flames, supervisors immediately called for an emergency demolition because they said the building was structurally unsound. The Kings said the demolished property has sat untouched since it fell.
“It’s got all kinds of crap down in it,” Donald King said of the rubble-filled basement. “In the summertime, we get all kinds of mosquitoes, mice. You can hardly keep the kids (in the neighborhood) out of it.”
The Kings said calls to the city, county and law enforcement have yielded no cleanup efforts over the past eleven months, and their concerns were growing as the next door lot fills with more trash, pests and children playing in the mess.
“Now we have people walking through here, looking through our windows, pulling scraps out. I don’t think we should have to live like that.”
Martha King said, “Now we have people walking through here, looking through our windows, pulling scraps out. I don’t think we should have to live like that.”
The eyesore prompted the couple to email 2 NEWS after a November special report on vacant and rundown properties. 2 NEWS brought their complaints to the City of Dayton’s Department of Planning and Community Development.
Acting Director Brian Inderrieden explained owners are responsible for cleaning up nuisance properties, but said his department fields several complaints each day.
“I would say be patient… We have a big workload on our plate,”
“I would say be patient… We have a big workload on our plate,” said Inderrieden.
More than 1,000 properties are on Dayton’s nuisance list, including at least 160 with severe fire damage. Inderrieden said it costs an average of $17,000 to demolish a property, but unless it is slated for emergency demolition or owned by the city or land bank, the property is responsible for demolition and cleanup or rehabilitation.
A city database lists eleven violations against the East 4th Street property, along with a disclaimer reading, “Violations are too numerous to list.” The house qualifies for the Nuisance Abatement Program. By city ordinance, a property owner is allowed 30 days to address nuisance orders before facing misdemeanor charges and fines, but no reports have been filed against the owner in municipal court.
Inderrieden explained a backlog of violations and nuisance orders could mean enforcing penalties could take up to two years.
“We do enforce the nuisance orders, but individuals need to take responsibility of their properties,” he said.
Donald and Martha King said they were frustrated by a lack of action.
“Would you want to look at that for the past 11 months?” Donald King asked.
2 NEWS tracked down the property owner through public records.
A county database listed the Department of Housing and Urban Development as the property owner, but 2 NEWS verified through the most recent deed that it was sold to an individual owner in 2011.
The current owner declined to be interviewed but shared that his delay is in part because of financial issues. He estimated cleanup and restoration of the property could cost between $10,000-$15,000. The owner claimed he hasn’t received any formal notice of the property’s violations and nuisance orders, although the documents are available online.
The Kings said they’d be willing to purchase the property if the owner cleaned it up.
“We’d be interested in buying the lot and putting some trees and stuff in or least something to improve the neighborhood,” Martha King said.
When 2 NEWS spoke with the property owner, he promised to put a fence around the pile of debris the weekend of February 10-11th. He said he planned to clear everything off of the lot by summer 2018.
2 NEWS will continue following this story and provide of updates of any new developments. Do you know of an Eyesore Next Door? Let us know about it by filling out the form below.