Neighbors in Wellington Heights area living next to unkempt home for years

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 11:19 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Neighbors in Wellington Heights are frustrated about the lack of movement on an unkempt property on Sixth Avenue SE near 15th Street.

Owners were working on making repairs since a fire happened back in 2017 at 1504 Sixth Avenue SE. But, four years later, the windows are broken, the porch is broken, trash cans are melted and parts of the siding are missing. Glass and trash are spread out across the property.

Chuck Crawley, who lives near the house, said he’s concerned for his children’s safety. He said he yells at his kids about 10 times a day to not go near the home.

“We’ve got super huge chunks of glass, you got exposed nails,” Crawley said. “I mean that just looks like a tetanus shot ready to happen. And then the fun stuff is out back.”

Crawley said the home has looked like this for about 5 years.

Greg Buelow, who is a spokesperson for the city of Cedar Rapids, said in an email that the city uses building services and the SAFE-CR program to create a safe and quiet enjoyment of neighborhoods. He said that enforcement begins 24 hours after receiving a property concern. The city accepts complaints from the MYCR mobile app, telephone or email through the city’s website.

Buelow wrote in an email that if the city can’t resolve property issues with a property owner, it then issues a municipal infraction, which then goes to Linn County District Court. The court then determines the timeline and proceedings moving forward. The court, then, follows a process before giving the city the ability to destroy a property.

In 2019, KCRG-TV9 reported, since fall of 2013, Cedar Rapids had documented 769 nuisance homes. More than 85% of those, or 654 homes, are now compliant with city ordinances.

Buelow wrote in an email that the situation at 1504 Sixth Avenue SE is unique because somebody was willing to buy the home and rebuild it.

“Having a buyer created a remedy to a negative housing situation, which the Court supported,” Buelow said. “Since then, the owners had been working on making repairs, responding to Court proceedings and fines, negotiating with a potential buyer, and clearing the title.”

The new property owner is the Hope Community Development Association. Ron Ziegler, who is the group’s executive director, said it took more than a year for him to buy the property. He said he started the process to buy the property in 2019, but didn’t close the deal until March 12, 2021.

Ziegler said he received grant money from the city to buy the property. Four months later, they haven’t started construction yet because there’s more application they need to fill out and get approved.

“There’s quite a bit of several steps where each bit, takes one month, two months, three months sometimes,” Ziegler said.

Those include building permits, collecting bids, and a historical preservation group approving their plans.

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