Marietta neighborhood wants city to handle burned property

Photo by Erin E. O’Neill Jake Kostelnik, a resident of Fearing Street, explains his concerns over a blighted property at 410 Fearing St. that burned in 2015 and remains virtually untouched today. Neighbors agree that the city and the owner should do something to take care of the property, the grounds and the smell from a Dumpster behind the house.

MARIETTA — Residents of a west side neighborhood say they are tired of seeing blight outside their doors and are looking to the city to do something about it.

Lord Street resident Craig Lupardus lives near a home on intersecting Fearing Street that has been boarded up, has grass and weeds growing and is basically an eyesore.

“The property has looked like this for two years and no one has done anything about it,” Lupardus said. “I just think the city needs to be more aggressive in dealing with the owner.”

The structure at 410 Fearing St. caught fire in August 2015. Beamond Thompson lived there with his wife Samantha, sons Izic and Brantlee and a family friend and roommate. They all escaped without harm but the burned out structure remains, along with a weed-covered porch and a Dumpster in the backyard.

“Nobody really goes over and bothers it; we just want it gone,” Lupardus said.

Photo by Erin E. O’Neill A Dumpster sits in the backyard of 410 Fearing St. Neighbors say there is a bad smell coming from the trash while the property owner says neighbors are using it illegally.

The property was bought shortly after the fire in October 2015 by James D. Neville, Jr., for $2,000, according to the Washington County Auditor’s website. The Thompsons were renting from Joseph Stewart, who purchased the property in 2007 for $25,000. Prior to that, there is no record of a property owner.

Neville said the way the issue has been portrayed in local media is unfair to him.

“I offered to sell it to Craig (Lupardus) for $4,000; I offered to give it to the city to tear down but they said there are liens on it,” Neville explained. “There are no liens; I’ve boarded it up like the city told me to and I’ve been paying all the taxes. I just don’t have the money to do anything with it.”

Neville also said that no one in the neighborhood seems to complain as much about trash and debris around the railroad tracks behind Fearing Street but they are taking advantage of the Dumpster.

“I’ve emptied that Dumpster and neighbors keep throwing (stuff) in it,” he said.

Photo by Erin E. O’Neill A “danger” sign was posted by code enforcement officer Wayne Rinehart in February.

Lupardus and Neville both said they have spoken to Wayne Rinehart, code enforcement officer for the city, about the property. Lupardus also contacted 4th ward councilman Tom Vukovic, as well as city law director Paul Bertram. Rinehart and Bertram were unavailable for comment Tuesday, but Vukovic said that he is trying to address his constituent’s concerns.

“I did talk to Mr. Lupardus but it’s been quite a while,” Vukovic said. “I did make a few phone calls on his behalf but the city’s hands are really tied as we try to figure out ways to demolish these houses and to find the funding (to do so).”

The problem of blighted, burned out, run down and abandoned properties isn’t just an issue in the 4th ward but in areas all over the city.

“It has been absolutely wonderful to have a code enforcement officer who is able to dedicate the time to deal with these complaints and to contact the owners to try to work something out,” said Marietta Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

Hupp said the next steps for the owner of 410 Fearing St. are to talk to any potential buyer and to work out a deal or to work with the law director to figure out what issue is keeping the city from buying the property.

“I don’t want (the property) but the city will take it off his hands free and clear and shoulder the cost to tear it down. Then we would try to recoup some of that money for the taxpayer,” Hupp said. “But I would advise the owner to speak to Mr. Bertram to find out just what it is that he has found that is keeping the city from moving forward.”

Hupp also advises the neighbors to talk to one another and to be vigilant about watching the property until a solution is agreed upon.

“I’ve lived here for 37 years,” said Jake Kostelnik, resident of 417 Fearing St., across from the burned house. “I’ve seen quite a few changes. But we all look out for each other.”

Kostelnik said his main concern is the smell “of something dead” from the Dumpster behind the house and the chance that a fire could be intentionally set. That would cause danger for next-door neighbor Janice Sarver’s property, which sits very close to the burned out house and sustained damage during the 2015 fire. Kostelnik mows Sarver’s lawn and, at times, will mow a path in front of the burned out structure for the postal carrier to walk through.

“I’m getting tired of it though. I’ll do it for (Sarver) but someone needs to step in and take care of this mess,” Kostelnik said.