WHEELING - There are 20 buildings on Wheeling's list of structures to be demolished using federal Community Development Block Grant money, half of which have been under raze orders for three years or longer.
Two of the buildings on that list - one in East Wheeling and one on Wheeling Island - have been under raze orders for more than five years. And six others, including three on Wheeling Island, have been condemned since 2009, according to a recent status report.
According to city Community Development Specialist Gary Lange, the city uses CDBG funds for demolition as a last resort, after exhausting all its options to get the buildings taken down without spending taxpayer money.
Photo by Ian Hicks
This vacant house at 326 N. Huron St. on Wheeling Island has been under a raze order since May 2008.
"It takes a long time while we go through the process. ... By the time the properties reach my desk, they are condemned. They are economically unfeasible to rehabilitate," Lange said.
Most buildings that fall to the CDBG program are smaller, single-family houses that typically cost between $6,000 and $8,000 to demolish, so Lange believes the $200,000 City Council allocated from the current fiscal year CDBG budget will be sufficient to clear the current list. But council only allocated half that amount for demolition out of the CDBG money the city expects to receive for the upcoming fiscal year, and Lange said building inspectors are constantly identifying more structures that need to be torn down.
There are multiple reasons why the process takes so long, from the availability of funds to cutting through the red tape that goes along with using federal funds for demolition.
"We've taken the people to court. We've determined that they don't have the resources to tear them down. Sometimes we can't find the last owner of record," Lange said.
Also, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the city to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office before using any federal funds to demolish a building. And when a property is located in a historic district, as is the case with all seven buildings on the list from Wheeling Island, the city almost always is required to enter a "memorandum of agreement" with the SHPO that ensures detailed record keeping about a building's history to mitigate the loss of the structure itself.
After tearing a building down, the city places a lien against the property for all costs incurred, proceeds from which go back into the demolition budget if ever collected. But that almost never happens, Lange acknowledged.
"Maybe twice in the last 10 years I can remember someone actually paying for the property," he said.
Following is the city's complete CDBG demolition list, by years in which raze orders were issued for the properties:
- Issued in 2008: 326 N. Huron St. and 1170 Grandview St.
- Issued in 2009: 444 Main St., 622 Grandview St., 425 N. Wabash St., 432 S. Penn St., 411 S. York St. and 328 Highland Ave.
- Issued in 2010: 88 New Jersey St., 312 S. Huron St., 1710 Wetzel St. and 845 McColloch St.
- Issued in 2011: 3111 McColloch St. and 400 Highland Ave.
- Issued in 2012: 48 E. First St., 179 Lane 15, 9 S. Penn St., 2414 Jacob St., 2232 Highland Ave. and 426 Warwood Ave.