New step in demolition process improves oversight

Nobody likes mistakes, but what’s important is the corrective steps individuals or groups take when they are made. That says a lot about the efforts to prevent future errors.

A new step introduced by Columbus officials in the city’s procedure for demolishing blighted and unsafe properties represents careful thought and is a significant improvement from its previous process.

The important change is including a judicial review by Bartholomew Superior Court, giving a non-affiliated third party a chance to review the process. The court can review whether:

  • Sufficient and appropriate attempts to contact the property owner had been made by the city.
  • The inspection of the property truly warranted vacating and condemning it.
  • The Board of Works and Public Safety was correct in approving a demolition order.

This is a good check and another layer of accountability. It also provides a needed pause before demolition, giving the property owner a last chance to get the property into compliance so the demolition order can be reversed.

The change is important considering what happened in February 2015, when a city contractor razed a Columbus home without any record of a demolition order being affirmed for the property. That was embarrassing and costly as the city had to pay the property owner $24,500 in a settlement.

City officials have begun using the new process as a case involving a home that has been ordered to be demolished has been sent to Superior Court for review.

Kudos to first-year mayor Jim Lienhoop for suggesting the need for a third-party review of demolition orders, and to city code enforcement officer Fred Barnett for crafting the language of the new process.

The revamped procedure is welcome and benefits both property owners and the city.