City opens hazardous building discussion

Unsafe building warning
Unsafe building warning

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Grand Marais city council members began the process of addressing hazardous or nuisance buildings within city limits. Councilors agreed there were dilapidated buildings, but they zeroed in on one in particular. WTIPs Jay Andersen has this story.
 
 
What to do about hazardous buildings was a topic of discussion at the Wednesday Grand Marais City Council meeting. At previous meetings Mayor Sue Hakes expressed concern over health and safety issues regarding some buildings within city limits. As a result, City Administrator Mike Roth consulted with the city’s attorney, Chris Hood and brought information and options to councilors.
 
According to Roth, Minnesota law defines hazardous buildings as those that because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, physical damage, unsanitary condition or abandonment constitute a fire or other hazard to public health and safety.
 
Councilors agreed there were a number of buildings that need work, including some that have been abandoned. Roth said there are a number of steps that the city would have to go through if nuisance building owners would not take corrective measures on their own. He said the city had never gone down the legal road and it would take time and money – some of which would be recoverable. He said councilors needed to consider approaches and consequences.
 
Roth: Why are we talking about this? There’s obviously negative consequences. So, what are they and what effect do they have? That might help you decide how much of our resources we need to spend addressing it. What’s your comfort level in terms of aggressiveness? We have very little middle ground here. It’s either we’re talking nicely to the property owner or we’re getting ready to sue them. There’s not very much in between that. So, if we’re not comfortable taking an aggressive approach, then it’s what we can accomplish.
 
The Mayor stressed respect and diplomacy when dealing with property owners. She said, she would rather talk to them and try to reach a middle ground before taking more extreme measures. Councilor Kay Costello was uncomfortable speaking in generalities and cited the city’s biggest concern was the safety of the old movie theatre building.
 
Roth said about two years ago a cement-coated foam panel fell off the front of the building and crashed to the sidewalk. No one was injured, but he added that no one really knows how safe the structure is and the city has no building inspector qualified to make that determination. Attorney Hood said an inspector from elsewhere could be hired to look at the building with the owner’s consent. Without that consent the process would mean going through the courts.
 
Councilors agreed they would rather not open the door to litigation.  However, Jan Sivertson reminded fellow council members, “We didn’t open that door. The door opened when the panel fell off.”
 
In the end Mayor Sue Hakes said she would contact the owners and begin the process.
 
Jay Andersen, WTIP News.


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