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Archive for Saturday, May 18, 1996

NEIGHBORS GETTING THEIR WISH WHEN SORCHED HOUSE RAZED

May 18, 1996

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A house once scorched by fire, tangled in the legal system and later purchased for renovation is now targeted for demolition.

The property, at 127 E. 17th, will be razed when crews are available after June 13, said Mike Lechtenberg, who bought the property within the year. He applied for a demolition permit last week.

Twenty-five neighbors had signed a petition earlier this month, asking someone to "get some action taken" after their five years of patient frustration. In its current condition, they said, the home poses hazards for children, devalues surrounding properties and remains a potential drug house.

Lechtenberg disagrees. He plans to raze the home but won't comment on its possible replacement.

"They don't own the property," he said. "They don't understand about the property. Somebody's always telling you what to do with your things."

Fire gutted the wood-sided home's upstairs several years ago, and Lawrence city commissioners considered ordering demolition in 1993, said Gene Shaughnessy, the city's chief building inspector. The property, however, was in probate, and dealing with several property owners proved difficult.

"It was kind of a clouded issue," Shaughnessy said.

Today, the house is boarded up, with tall weeds in the yard -- inspectors cited the property earlier this month for a weed ordinance violation -- and a long, 6-foot-tall pile of dirt and debris in the back.

Donna Roper, who lives across the street at 1704 Barker, said neighbors had been plenty patient as ownership issues were resolved. But enough is enough.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," she said. "I just think he has the responsibility, as a neighbor, to the rest of us to either tear it down or repair it, and he hasn't been in a hurry to do anything about it.

"When I see the bulldozers out there, I'll know he's ready to do something."

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