Sonya Shreve's house at 4172 Harrison St., Bellaire, remained standing late Monday, despite warnings from the village that the building would be razed.
As of 9:30 p.m., a padlock secured the front door from the outside. A sign posted on the door proclaimed "Property Occupied 6/24/12." A few hand tools were scattered on the front porch, but there was no sign that demolition was under way.
Marla Krupnik, Bellaire's deputy clerk, said the house was scheduled to come down after a June 4 council meeting. A company was contracted to perform the demolition, which was set to begin Monday.
Neither Krupnik nor Mayor Vince DiFabrizio could be reached Monday evening for comment regarding whether plans had changed. No one answered the door at 4172 Harrison St.
Shreve, who reportedly resides in Moundsville, purchased the long-vacant home in Bellaire in October. At that point, she applied for and received a one-year work permit from the village, signed by then-code enforcer Jim Chase. The permit expires Oct. 20, 2012, and also is posted on the front door.
Shreve admitted the house has required a lot of work, and it isn't done yet. But she said considerable and noticeable progress has been made.
When the work is complete, she intends to live in the residence. She said she already has many of her possessions in the house, along with two family pets who are fed and cared for daily while she performs the repairs and updates.
But in May, Shreve received a 60-day "abate the nuisance" notice from the village, stating repairs needed to be made or the structure would have to be abandoned and would be torn down. The notice stated Shreve had 15 days to appeal.
She appealed to Bellaire Village Council twice. At a May meeting, Shreve displayed large photos of the progress made on the house. She was slated to speak but was informed of a meeting to discuss her situation and never got the opportunity to speak in front of council.
Shreve returned for the June 4 meeting, but her situation was discussed behind closed doors.
"At first they asked me questions about how long it would take to get this done, that done and other things," Shreve recalled. "Then, (Mayor) Vince (DiFabrizio) decides that he didn't think I could get it done and asked to have a vote to demolish the structure. It was motioned, seconded and passed."
Ohio's open meetings, or "Sunshine Laws," state votes should not take place during an executive session. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's website includes detailed information about Sunshine Laws. It states: "Executive sessions may be held for only a few specific purposes. No votes may be taken or decisions made on the matter(s) discussed during the executive session. Members would have to reconvene their public meeting and then openly conduct a vote."
No explanation of the vote on Shreve's property was mentioned after council returned to open session.
During the meeting, Shreve said DiFabrizio presented a signed letter from Chase, dated April 4, stating the property was a nuisance to the community. However, Shreve recalled and Chase confirmed his resignation as code enforcer was effective April 2.
"She had a permit to work on the house until Oct. 20, I believe, of 2012," Chase said. "She had permission to work on the house, and everything was being done right. She was making progress. There is a lot of work to do."
According to Krupnik, the one-year permit was not legal. Rather, an initial 30-day permit should have been issued and then 30-day extensions could have been issued depending on the progress.
Shreve said the report from inspector Ed Hess cited that gutters were hanging down, there was not enough clearance between her house and the neighboring structures, the house was a fire hazard, the rear of the house was not sealed up, etc. Shreve said all the matters that were addressed in the inspection report have been handled.
The back of the house has been sided and sealed. A door is now used for entrance where a large tarp previously covered the back of the house.
Krupnik said Hess reported the house was unsafe and needed to come down. He felt it was beyond repair. She said Shreve was notified about when she must vacate the property.
After the June 4 council meeting, Shreve said her attorney drafted and sent a letter to the village that stated: "Even though you had her belongings having to be out within 14 days, she feels she can abate the nuisance within her 30-day time period. She would like the opportunity to do that.
Per Bellaire city ordinance, if it is not taken care of, she does understand the house would be demolished."