Archive for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

City Commission denies razing request for Connecticut St. house

April 20, 2011


A run-down house on Connecticut Street elicited a run up in emotion from Lawrence’s new mayor on Tuesday night.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting not only denied a request to demolish an early 1900s home at 711 Conn., but Lawrence Mayor Aron Cromwell also chided the applicant for allowing the home to become so run-down.

“This is almost a farce,” Cromwell told Michael Tubbs, a Lawrence attorney representing a group who wants to redevelop the property with a new apartment project. “The reason this property is in the condition it is in is because it has not been maintained. It is a failure.

“Rather than hanging their heads and apologizing, they stand before us with a plan to capitalize on their neglect. I’m very upset about that and the impact it has had on the neighborhood.”

Tubbs had argued that the house posed a safety hazard, and indeed the city condemned the property and declared it unfit for habitation for structural reasons in August. The house has significant water damage, termite damage and large amounts of debris inside.

But city commissioners on Tuesday said they didn’t see any evidence that the exterior walls of the house were at a high risk to collapse and injure bystanders or adjacent property.

Commissioners heard from several members of the east Lawrence neighborhood and the Lawrence historic preservation community who urged commissioners to deny the demolition request because it would set a bad precedent for property owners who don’t maintain their properties.

“We believe the house doesn’t need a bulldozer as much as it needs a Dumpster,” said Dennis Brown with the Lawrence Preservation Alliance.

In addition to denying the demolition application, which previously had been rejected by the city’s Historic Resources Commission, commissioners also directed staff members to research city code to determine what the property owner could be forced to do to improve the property.

City commissioners on Tuesday tried to determine exactly who was responsible for allowing the property to deteriorate, but without much success. Tubbs declined to answer a question from the commission about who his client was, citing attorney-client privilege. He also declined to answer who was responsible for managing the property.

Longtime Lawrence landlord James Dunn is the owner of the property, but he told the Journal-World in a previous interview that he had no role in managing the property. Instead he said the adjacent Praise Temple Church, 315 E. Seventh St., is the entity behind the project. Dunn said he bought the property in 2004 solely as a means of financing the property for Praise Temple. The church, which neighbors noted is led by Rev. Paul Winn, who has had several housing violations in the city, is purchasing the property from Dunn “on contract,” he said.

Tubbs declined to comment on any of that.

“I’m not here to debate how the structure got to this point, but it is at this point,” Tubbs said.


Sigmund 3 years ago

merrill (anonymous) says… "Slum Lording should be a crime."

The landlord in this case WANTS to build a brand new building that would be up to current code using his own money and without any help from the taxpayers. It is the Kommission that is preventing that. You might want to consider who should be the target of you righteous indignation.


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

These boarding houses will be a menace no matter which neighborhood.

Too many bedrooms = too many cars = sanctioned animal house!

Of course slum lords are a menace no matter which neighborhood!!!


Richard Heckler 3 years ago

“The reason this property is in the condition it is in is because it has not been maintained. It is a failure. " Absolutely.

Slum Lording should be a crime.


Armored_One 3 years ago

The neglect aside, which I agree is a load of manure, does anyone know if this particular house was affected by the '51 flood? If the house was built when the report says, all of the timber was rough hewn and not pressure treated, so it would have spongued up the sediment and crud in the water that covered so much of the city.

Plus, with building codes being what they were back then, which is non-existant, it's very likely that repairs and updating the interior could actually be a catastrophic amount. In some of the older houses in this town I have helped fix up in one way or another, there are wall joists that not only do not mesh, they flat out don't touch anything.

I've seem nearly petrified wall studs that are so hard and dense that they sheer off re-enforced titanium bits designed for such a project.

You don't have to neglect it to bring in an architect and engineer to take a good, long look at the building.

A lot of foundations were trashed badly in the flood and basically just spot patched as best as possible after the flood as well. A lot of the old houses, and by old I mean pushing a century old, would simply not live through mudjacking it up to replace the foundation, which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars on just simple jobs.

Yeah, it beyond bogus to just let it stand there and rot instead of asking for help to accomplish something, but I think there might be a chance that there is more to reasons the property got to this point than just greed. I could be wrong, but the city might want to look into that as well. Some outside firm, from Manhattan or Salina with little chance of being tied to much of anyone here in town at all. Removes the chance, hopefully, of 'good ole boy' politics, which does run somewhat strong in this city.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

It appears that Mr. Dunn sold the propertyon "contract" and that being the case, Dunn would be the applicant for demoltion. An owner who sells on "contract' is not required to maintain a property. Likewise, if a bank makes a loan for a house, are they out checking to see if the house is maintained? I do not think so. If that were the case, most every place in town would have the banks getting a letter from the city.

Now, one has to wonder if Mr. Cromwell and the commissioners would want their lenders to be notified of property violations?

What shape was 711 Connecticut in when Mr. Dunn loaned the money to Mr. Winn?

Dunn did not buy the house. Apparently no one on the City Commission is smart enough to fiigure that out.

I wonder how the City Commission and Mayor Cromwell would view the exterior , backsides of the buildings in the 1000 blockof Mass street. Go look at those places, broken windows, safey issues, where is Mr. Brown on that and/or Mr. Cromwell.

Cromwell might very well do himself in and what about Schumm, interview him Mr. Lawhorn.



tomatogrower 3 years ago

Maybe let them demolish the house, but deny them permits to put anything in but grass, the legal kind.


pace 3 years ago

I am sorry the situation led to tarnish Mr. Dunn's reputation for property maintenance. I have known several of his properties and considered his maintenance habits very good. Much better than many landlords in this town. He dealt with my friends honestly and fairly and they had no problems.


MyName 3 years ago

Real Property has always been in a different class from other types of property for the simple reason that you can't just pick it up and take it with you. You have more responsibility for it and the city or state has an interest in making sure you are taking care of it. As FDR said: "A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself." The same could be said for a neighborhood and its houses.


oletimer 3 years ago

It sure is nice to know that the city and all their little buds can tell a landowner what he can do with his property. I knew it was going to be interesting with cromwell as mayor. Just did not realize he would make things jump this quick. His term should be a real treat. Hold on Lawrence, the ride is just beginning. Good luck with that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


tbaker 3 years ago

Private property rights are the essence of liberty. The fact we have let government reach a point where it can tell people what they can and cannot do with thier own property sickens me. The fact our culture now produces groups of people who feel so empowered as to dictate to others what they can do with thier own property stuns me. If the Lawrence historic preservation community wants to save this house, they need to provide the funds to clean it up / repair it / buy it from the current owner. Otherwise, these people need to shut up and let the current owner exercise his private property rights. So long as what he does in no way harms his neighbors, they need to mind thier own business.


Sigmund 3 years ago

Pretending that zoning laws are there to improve the condition of private property, the Kommission cuts of it's nose despite its face. Let him tear it down and build something that meets code, then raise his property taxes to match the improvements.


George_Braziller 3 years ago

This was very intentional demolition by neglect. No other way to explain why the gas (thus the heat) was shut off but not the water despite being contacted several times that the water was still on. Gee, what a surprise. Frozen water lines, burst pipes and all of a sudden there is handy water damage to cite as a reason to tear it down.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

I wish everyone in Lawrence in the fifties had saved their outhouses, We woulnd't need a sewer plant.

And what a shame that homes , single family at that, were torn down on Mass St to build a Dirty Dillons.

Oh, those quant little houses next to the present Community buillding should have been save, and that parking lot wouldn't be next to the community building. It is not needed, Lawrence being a green town and folks like to walk everywhere.

The real regret for the community is tearing down a perfectly good lumber yard facility so that the present library downtown could be built.

What is wrong with this town, tearing down good commercial property. couldn't the Lumber yard been turned into a library>

Cromwell doesn't seem too concerned about the house for sale at the corner of Rhode Island and 7th which is gutted inside. What about it? What about the exterior of the house, owner occupied, on Tennessee, the big one, east side, the one that was never finished. Can it be torn down?


Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years ago

This has the seeds of the Third Reich. Confiscation of peoperty to the benefit of the State (Reich) These marginally elected snobs on the "commmission" must have read "Mein Kampf" and committed it to their memories on how to take over and dictate to the citizens how they should live, behave, and just who and what are acceptable and who goes to the gas chamber.


JackRipper 3 years ago

I'm aware of a house that burned down on 10 and Mississippi that went down hill significantly before surprise, surprise it burned down so a monstrously ugly apartment complex can be built there along with all the other eyesores that have popped up on that block in the last 10 or so years. If there is going to be a policy against this it should be enforced throughout town. I'm also aware of a duplex owned by one of the developers who destroyed the Kasold hill that hasn't had anything done to it in years that is also coming to the point it would will need to be dozed and of course a larger complex built even if it doesn't fit in to the area. This is a builder with all the tools needed to do the work. I don't feel this is a policy of the city and more of a personal disagreement going on between Cromwell and those involved otherwise we'd see a lot fewer places left to fall apart. Oh yeah, as far as the Mississippi project, who owns the bricks? Were the originally put in by the city or can landowners tear them up to do with them what they want?


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

There is a house in the 1200 block of Tennessee, that is owner occupied and on the east side of the street,even with a trailer at the rear that is covered with a "duck blind" covering. So, that owner wants to tear down the house or if the current owner sells it to someone else who wants to tear it down, what will Cromwell do?

Lawrence needs a systematic demoliton program for each and every block or the city will continue to be filthy and dirty. How does Cromwell and Schumm support the appearance of the backs of the business buildings just east of the parking lot that Treanor wants to rip off the public and pay only 10cents an hour for parking.

This city commission will prove to be the worse yet. Just sit back and watch.


Raider 3 years ago

That's why that section of east Lawrence is such a dump. You have rundown properties that are to expensive to maintain combined with slumlords who won't fix them, and other owner/occupants who don't have the money to fix up their property. Yet when someone wants to raze a 100+ y/o old building that's falling down and build something new on the site, the neighborhood association hollers and cries about it and the city denies the permit. Wow.


Matthew Del Vecchio 3 years ago

I don't really have any interest in this issue specifically but I do like to see the city commission choosing not to lay down for the property moguls that think they run this town. Great job Cromwell!


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

A question for the Journal World story writers.

What is the procedure to tear down a property in Lawrence?

The answer please, Mr. Lawhorn. It is very simple to find out and the paper should let the public know and maybe even the commissioners.

Also, has the Historic Resources Commission ever been sued?


smitty 3 years ago

Recent comparison of the East Lawrence concerns over demolitions.

Just down the 1200 block is a house that is totally trashed. The yard is full and stacked high front and back. Do Co tax role shows only taxes for the vacant lot..which it is far from true. What is going on? Why would the city demolish a property that has been protected from neighborhood vandals, outside kept clean while allowing the obvious trashing of an east Lawrence neighborhood?

How about this little ditty? It's next door to the one owned by our state representative, Francisco, without intervention on their part or the our outspoken and active(?) east Lawrence neighborhood association.

What's the story on this trashed house on the 1200 block of Penn that is immune to the shakers and movers and the city ordinances(intervention)?


Zachary Stoltenberg 3 years ago

Ever wonder why Compton buys a place that mysteriously burns down a few months later and is replaced by a shiny new apartment building? That's how you deal with commissioners in this town apparently. That's what happened when you penalize and delay people for trying to go about it the right way.


LTownBaby 3 years ago

The city currently makes $800ish in taxes on this property in a year, if they were to put up a 6 unit new apartment building, it would easily bring in $3,000. Multiply this by a few more hundred times and we are talking about real money!


consumer1 3 years ago

Mayor Aron Cromwell also chided the applicant for allowing the home to become so run-down.

“This is almost a farce,” Cromwell told Michael Tubbs, a Lawrence attorney representing a group who wants to redevelop the property with a new apartment project. “The reason this property is in the condition it is in is because it has not been maintained. It is a failure."

Tell that to the University when it allows it's building to become so delapidated they must be raized. You are such a weak kneed wimp. You don't have the Kahonies to stand up to the big boys do you punk!!


irvan moore 3 years ago

i can't believe i'm doing this but i'm going to give cromwell credit for a good job on this one.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years ago

"Tubbs declined to answer a question from the commission about who his client was, citing attorney-client privilege. He also declined to answer who was responsible for managing the property."

Does anybody else find this a very odd statement? Does attorney-client privilege really entail concealing the identity of the client? Doesn't the city (and its citizens) have the right to know who controls a property, particularly when they are seeking to demolish it, and then ask for a significant variance in its zoning?


imastinker 3 years ago

It's laws like this that contribute to these places deteriorating. Look at the whole oread neighborhood. The places are expensive to purchase because they are right near KU. You can't improve them, so the only thing you can do is chop them up into apartments and rent them out. What is the solution here? The city passed laws limiting the number of unrelated tenants, and is just pushing the apartment buildings out on the outskirts of town where people don't have to deal with stuff like this. But it's really needed near KU.

What happened to being a green town? Instead we have a town where you have to drive to get anywhere.

I don't even know what to say to this thing. Isn't it his property and his business if he wants to tear it down? Whose business is it if he neglects it? This isn't even in a regular neighborhood. It's next to a church on one side and across from a commercial building. It's only got one house next to it.

Maybe they just don't want to pay taxes on it.


guess_again 3 years ago

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cowboy 3 years ago

A large number of properties in the central lawrence corridor are in similar shape. they are health hazards plain and simple. They lend little to nothing to the value of the neighborhood. This property with what looks like asbestos siding , crumbling foundation , mold , complete disrepair , should be demolished. The city should pull back the authority of HRC , which seems to have become a new planning commission , on top of the real planning commission , in addition to the permit approval process , in addition to the city commission , in addition to the staff recommendations. Get my point ? I have no problem with rejecting the construction of apartments . I have no problem with the establishment of historic districts. But lets be realistic. This is a pig no matter how you dress it up. Don't like the owner , fine , but that should not be a part of the decision.

If infill is the desired path for central lawrence , develop an architectural spec that the community can live with. New looks like old but new. Get it. Then let these neighborhoods be improved and start gaining value instead of just decaying. While you're at it enact rental property inspections and the authority to bring them in compliance with code over a period of time. Having worked on many of these properties over the years there are some real death traps out there waiting to implode.


pinecreek 3 years ago

Good for the CC, don't let either of them benefit from their own, apparently intentional neglect of this property. Next steps will be interesting and difficult, hopefully they'll drag all of them into some sort of court or hearing and sort out who's actually the driver of this ridiculous behavior.


nativeson 3 years ago

The City needs a comprehensive approach toward older neighborhoods. This issue has been fought for decades, and the result is a continuing decline in the condition of housing stock. I do not know the circumstances that led to the decline of this property, but it certainly did not start its decline in 2004 when purchased by Mr. Dunn.

If we want real change, it will require a long-term ability for property owners to come into compliance with housing codes. The owner is now faced with either doing next to nothing or demolition since rehab all at once is simply too expensive.


wprop 3 years ago

The church egress windows are too small....shut it down.......


gilly 3 years ago

Kudos to the City Commission for calling the landlord on this tactic--neglecting a property in hopes of getting permission for demolition. Now, what is the Commission going to do to prevent further attempts by Lawrence landlords at this development game?


leftylucky 3 years ago

Dunn served with Winn on the Human Relations Comission. Winn had an arbitratrion office in the little house {7111/2 Conn) Dunn knew what was going on with the property and with Winn. Way to go Comissioners. Did Winn recieve money from SRS or Section 8 housing for this property? How come Praise Temple Church never got building permits for the church and why are there not any site plans?


grammaddy 3 years ago

Paul Winn, who used to be in the City's Human Resources department? How funny that the good Reverend is also a slumlord.


cowboy 3 years ago

Where in the statute does it allow for "angry commissioners". You can certainly deny the new project based on zoning but to deny the demolition is just being petulant. Another lawsuit the city will lose.


somebodynew 3 years ago

OK, now there is a pair to draw to. Dunn and Winn, wow add in a neglected property and you have a complete picture of either one (or both). I am sure they won't but I would like to see the City come down hard on both. Doesn't it just scream something wrong when the Attorney who is asking the City for something won't even name his client???

And if past history is any judge of character, if they have to remoldel the place the City better place an inspector there daily - I remember one other property Dunn was involved in that was supposed to be built one way - but then it wasn't. But not discovered until it was too late, of course.


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