City OKs payment for unauthorized demolition

The city of Columbus has reached a settlement with the estate for a deceased Columbus woman, agreeing to pay $24,500 for tearing down a house on Ninth Street without authorization.

The amount is the appraised value for the home at 1317 Ninth St. before it was demolished Feb. 5, the settlement states.

When the city turns over the check to the Nancy Baumann estate, the property — including the lot, which is less than one-tenth of an acre — belongs to the city, said attorney Grant Tucker, who represented the estate.

Flat Rock-based Robertson Paving removed the home from the foundation in the city’s second round of demolitions through a program to address unsafe buildings within city limits.

In the settlement, the city acknowledged it failed to receive the proper required authority from the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety before razing the house.

The settlement clears the city from any more liability in the case, the agreement states. The settlement payment will come from leftover funds in the Community Development Block Grant program, City Attorney Jeff Logston said Tuesday.

The city is in early discussions with Housing Partnerships Inc. to possibly locate affordable housing on the property, Logston said.

The city’s community development department asked the board of works to hire the contractor without an affirmed demolition order, which is legally required in the process the city is using in its program to tear down unsafe properties, according to the agreement.

Patricia Porter Campbell, daughter of Nancy Baumann, is the executor of her mother’s estate. She did not return telephone calls this week requesting comments about the settlement.

Learning about demolition

In an earlier interview, Porter Campbell said she found out about the demolition as it was happening — notified by her son, Nick Porter, who received a text from a friend who saw the demolition.

The family was shocked to learn the house had been torn down and that they did not have a chance to remove valuables stored inside, including a bedroom set and stove, she said.

Porter Campbell said neither she nor her attorney received notice of the demolition.

City records show receipts verifying the city sent certified mail to Porter Campbell informing her that the city was having a hearing on the property. The post office unsuccessfully attempted to deliver the notification to her home north of the city limits and just east of Taylorsville three times last August. That notification met the city’s legal requirement for notifying property owners by mail.

Porter Campbell said there have been issues with mail being taken out of residents’ boxes, but the city never had problems contacting her to pay taxes or tax liens.

The notification letter went unclaimed, and the city published a legal notice about the hearing in The Republic Aug. 21 and 22. The city also published a legal notice Dec. 15 and 22 that it would take bids for demolition on the property.

City action on property

An Oct. 28 report to the Columbus Board of Works from Carl Malysz, director of community development, said the five-member board chaired by Mayor Kristen Brown affirmed the order to demolish the house Oct. 7.

However, the minutes and recording from the Oct. 7 meeting show that the board took no action on the 1317 Ninth St. property. Logston told the board the property had been ordered to be boarded up and that no further action was needed.

The board has no record of affirming the demolition order, which is needed before the house can be torn down, except in emergency situations.

The house had passed through the Porter Campbell family for several generations before it was torn down. Porter Campbell’s son was the last to live in the house, and the property had been vacant for several years. It was still a part of the Baumann estate, Porter Campbell said.

Two other house demolitions in the 200 block of Pence Street also have been questioned by property owners since the Baumann case, as they were sold in a sheriff’s sale but were demolished before the one-year waiting period was completed for the property to change hands.

Logston said he has not heard anything in the past few months from the Pence Street property owners or those who purchased the properties in the sheriff’s sale.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.