What is the real value of the house at 319 11th St. in Baldwin? A definitive answer to that question could determine the outcome of a dispute between the city and the owners of the home.
Appraised at $1,000 in 1990, its value jumped to $25,120 in 1991, and then down to $310 with the latest appraisal.
During a hearing Friday afternoon in Douglas County District Court, Judge James Paddock maintained that, regardless of the house's fair market value, the Baldwin City Council acted reasonably last September when it issued a condemnation order on the house, owned by Eugene Brown Sr. and Elizabeth Brown, who live in rural Baldwin.
The Browns asked for a restraining order against the city council to prevent demolition of the house, but Paddock denied the request in February, saying the city had the right to remove any structure that had become unsafe or dangerous.
THE BROWNS appealed the ruling in late March to the Kansas Court of Appeals, but later asked to put the appeal on hold after they received a valuation notice from the Douglas County Appraiser's Office, which appraised the house and its surrounding property at $35,800.
On Friday afternoon, Theodore Lickteig, attorney for the Browns, asked the court's permission for the Browns to repair the house under Baldwin city code, which says a house determined to be uninhabitable can be salvaged if the owners can rehabilitate it for less than 50 percent of the assessed value. He also asked for a court ruling saying that the city's action was unreasonable, something that would have nullified the condemnation order.
Sharon Dominik, interim appraisal coordinator for Douglas County, testified that the Browns had asked for a hearing on the valuation of $10,680 for the land, so she and another staff member visited the house and property for an on-site appraisal.
"THE ONLY way to make an appraisal judgment is to look at the total package," she said, explaining her reason for reappraising the house instead of looking only at the land.
The new valuation was $310 for the house and $4,500 for the land. Dominik said a computer error was responsible for the inflated 1991 valuation originally issued.
Because of the most recent appraisal, Baldwin City Atty. Jack Murphy suggested that Lickteig's request for reversal of the condemnation order was moot.
Paddock disagreed, saying, "I don't feel there's any evidence that would change the court's finding."
Lickteig said the Browns plan to continue with their appeal of the condemnation order in the Kansas Court of Appeals.
"I think we have some real strong arguments," he said.