By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Reporter
Fort Thomas is known as the "city of beautiful homes", but just a glance at some uninhabited properties in Fort Thomas gives the impression that that moniker obviously does not apply to every home.
Some may say those houses spread across Fort Thomas need to be demolished. There has been a rise of homes not being well-kept as a result of the recent economic downturn. But Fort Thomas City Administrative Officer Don Martin said that will not happen anytime soon unlike what happened in nearby Covington.
Covington recently voted to demolish about 50 privately and city-owned properties mostly on the east side. Martin said portions of those blighted properties were part of Urban Renewal Zones as outlined by Kentucky Revised Statute 99. Covington contracted JP Excavating out of Glencoe, Kentucky to do the work. It cost the city about $5,700 per property as opposed to $10,000 on its own using grants and money from the city’s general fund. Covington will instead use the tax money in other way such as foreclosing the properties and making the sites more profitable.
“Fort Thomas does not have an area in the city that would currently meet the criteria for being declared an Urban Renewal Zone,” Martin said.“These state statutes cannot be used to address individual properties."
However, Martin did say Fort Thomas could order a property to be demolished if it was in so bad of shape that it was a danger to nearby residents. But the owner could appeal that decision through the courts through a process that could take several years. Martin said he’s not aware of this happening in Fort Thomas recently.
If the courts decide the home needs to be demolished, Fort Thomas would not rebuild it. The owner still owns the land and could keep it vacant, rebuild a home or sell it for someone else to build on it. One could then assume the new home would be worth more and bring more property tax money to Fort Thomas. The current property tax value is 36 cents per $100 of a home.
“It is generally more expensive for a city to demolish any structure than a private owner because the city must obtain a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency, must conduct a Phase I Environmental Impact Study on the structure, and must remove any hazardous material such as asbestos before the home could be demolished,”Martin said. “A private property owner is not required to follow these steps.”
Two homes in question are located at 37 Earnscliff and 1627 N. Fort Thomas Ave (pictures forthcoming this afternoon) said he does not know if they are vacant or not. Neighbors have reported multiple break-ins various homes like these two. Criminal activity is a big reason Covington is tearing down those homes.
1627 N. Fort Thomas Ave
“The two homes are currently maintained at or above the minimum standards required by the City’s Property Maintenace Code,” Martin said. “The current property owners may not be maintaining them at the same level as neighboring homes, but their current conditions are not in violation of city ordinance.”
Martin said Fort Thomas goes by the International Property Maintenance Code to address property violations. The building inspector goes out to look at properties from where the public can walk when a complaint about a blighted property comes in.
“If violations are observed, the building inspector will send a notice of violation and remedial order to the owner of record,”Martin said. “This notice gives sufficient time for the owner of record to correct the observed violations, most owners resolve the violations after receiving this letter. If corrections are not made, the owner is sent a second notice via certified mail. Again, at this step more violations are corrected. If corrections are not made after the certified letter, a third notice is mailed via certified mail. If corrections are not made after the third notice, the owner of record is cited to court.”
Martin noted there are just four properties currently holding up in court. The locations are 1011/1013 South Fort Thomas Avenue, 37 Fairfield Place, 52 Crowell and 13 Woodland because a sailboat is in the yard.
FTM will work on getting to the bottom of these properties. Are there any other vacant houses that are a public nuisance?