published Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Red Bank City Commission condemns three properties

A frustrated Red Bank property owner walked out of the City Commission meeting Tuesday night after the first of three condemnation hearings.

Steven H. Jan, who owns properties on Berkley Drive, Crerar Street and Trenton Street, stated that it was "no use" to stay.

After Jan's protests, Red Bank city commissioners voted Tuesday night to condemn and demolish the structures on each of the three properties.

The commission first heard evidence against Jan's property at 2622 Berkley Drive.

Public Works Director Tim Thornbury said the property was "unfit for human habitation" and presented photographs demonstrating the structures' deterioration. "We found holes in the wall, dilapidated wiring, windows broke[n] out [and] the structure was open," Thornbury said.

Thornbury stated that in November 2011 he had made numerous attempts to notify Jan of the condemnation and discuss plans to repair the homes. Many of the notices, sent by certified mail, had been returned unopened, Thornbury said.

Thomas Retseck, an industrial engineer hired by the city to assess the building's condition, stated that the cost of repairs to bring it up to code would be more than 51 percent of the value of the home.

"Basically, there was nothing functional," he said, "and everything was rotting from the floor and the walls and the ceiling."

Jan was then allowed to make a statement.

He alleged that the city had never notified him that the properties were being condemned.

"The city ought to let us know that [we] have to repair," he said.

Jan stated that he had been unable to keep up with the properties because he had "been very sick with cancer," but that he had recovered and was able to make the repairs now.

He added that he thought the Public Works Department and the neighbors were "cahooting" against him to have the properties condemned because he was a minority.

Jan then left the premises of the Red Bank City Hall building.

Mayor John Roberts stated that "the city has clearly established that what is left of this house is a nuisance, injurious to health, safety and morals of the citizens and is dangerous and unfit for human habitation."

He added that the evidence proved that the city had made every reasonable attempt to notify Jan and had given him plenty of time to repair the buildings. City Manager Randall Smith said Wednesday that Jan never provided plans for repairs or applied for building permits at any of the properties.

Roberts moved that the structure be demolished within 60 days of March 20, and the motion passed unanimously.

The commissioners then heard evidence against Jan's properties at 4506 Crerar St. and 4 Trenton St.

As Jan was not present for the hearings, the commissioners ruled that both be demolished within 60 days.

"He had an opportunity to stay," Smith said, "and he decided to leave."

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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