“This is like firing the attorney an hour before the final hearing,” said Warsaw city attorney Mike Valentine in response to an announcement that a condemned property is now under a pending sale.
An order of demolition of the house at 1405 Ranch Rd., Warsaw, now stands in effect as it pertains to the current owners, Mark and Donna Shaffer. But in an announcement made by Mark Shaffer during today’s code enforcement hearing, Gene O’Hara has agreed to purchase the property for the sum total of $10,000, contingent on any liens.
Warsaw Code Enforcement Hearing Officer Larry Clifford issued the demolition order on Aug. 1, but the Shaffers had until today’s hearing to post a cash performance bond of $3,500 proving their intent to make all needed repairs to the property. Clifford also ruled that a $5,000 civil penalty be issued against the Shaffers if they failed to comply with the orders. The city has the authority to waive the penalty.
During today’s hearing, Ken Locke spoke on behalf of O’Hara noting his intent is to purchase the property and make all of the necessary repairs to make it inhabitable, then sell it. A title search on the property was filed on Friday. “His intent is obviously to buy the property. It’s all contingent now on the title search and making sure the liens are clear,” said Locke.
Warsaw Building Commissioner Todd Slabaugh asked if there was anything in writing to show the purchase intent. Locke had only a letter he presented to Clifford.
Valentine responded to the announcement, “How does this change anything? We just have another promise that somehow, out of the air, we’re going to fix this thing. He could turn around and sell it to the next guy who says, ‘I’m going to fix it’.”
Clifford agreed with Valentine and again noted that the demolition order is in effect. However, to allow O’Hara the opportunity to gather all of the title information and make a decision on a final purchase, he reset a hearing for Monday, Sept. 16.
If O’Hara determines prior to the hearing that the sale will not proceed, he is to inform Slabaugh and the demolition can begin immediately. “I don’t want this to sit a minute longer than it has,” Clifford said. “If, in fact, Mr. O’Hara is going to do something legitimate here, it’s probably a reasonable amount of time. I’m re-setting the hearing for Mr. O’Hara’s interest only. The Shaffers are done.”
The house has sat vacant for approximately 6 years and has been an eyesore for neighbors. Tarps cover the roof, which has leaked for years and resulted in interior ceiling and water damages. In an effort to show the city they were interested in saving the house, the Shaffers said they had removed approximately 15 garbage bags of debris from the interior in the month prior as they tried to obtain a loan from Lake City Bank to make the repairs.
In the July meeting, Candy Little, assistant vice president of collections for Lake City Bank, informed Clifford that the bank had already charged off the remaining $16,000 mortgage and placed a lien on the property.
If O’Hara plans to go through with the purchase, Clifford said he will have to post a cash performance bond of at least $3,500 on Sept. 16. The hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. in Warsaw City Hall.