ISHPEMING - The city of Ishpeming has denied an appeal of a demolition order from a Wisconsin-based building owner for the structure he owns at 201 E. Division St.
Michael Wisth of Upper MI Properties, LLC, purchased the building in November 2011 and in May 2012 was issued a notice that the building violated the city's unsafe building ordinance, which included an order for demolition.
The Ishpeming City Council, designated as the code hearing board for the city, met in a special session Tuesday morning to hear arguments from City Manager Jered Ottenwess as to why the violation notice was issued and to hear Wisth's request for a 120-day extension of the demolition order.
As part of an ongoing process to clean up unsafe buildings, the city of Ishpeming has issued a demolition order for the structure at 201 E. Division St. An appeal from the owner for an extension to provide time to rehabilitate the structure was denied by the city’s code enforcement hearing board, which is made up of the city council. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Wisth said he was requesting the extension to allow time to come up with a plan to salvage the building, which was purchased for $250 in a tax sale.
The city's ordinance allows the city manager to issue a demolition order if the estimated cost of repairs needed to make the building usable, $118,500 according to an estimate from Dan Perkins Construction, is greater than the true cash value of the building, set at $1,858 by the Ishpeming assessor's office.
The hearing board could have either upheld the demolition order, overturned the order or granted the extension.
"The purpose of the hearing is to decide if the notice of violation is supported by material evidence," said City Attorney David Savu, who directed the hearing on behalf of the city.
The city had conducted two inspections of the building, one in May and one in July, during which city officials found black mold covering most of the surfaces of the building and a large hole in the roof, which allowed for extensive water damage to both the walls, ceiling and floor of the structure and standing water on both the first and second floors.
"It's clear the structure has been compromised," Ottenwess said. "It's unfit for human occupancy and ultimately will collapse."
Local contractor Dan Perkins also spoke as a witness for the city and agreed the cost for fully repairing the building, which includes two living units on the second floor but has been abandoned for some years, would be prohibitive.
"I found the building really unsalvageable," Perkins said. "It's completely rotten. It would be more expensive to repair it than to remove it."
During the hearing, Wisth questioned both Ottenwess and Perkins as to how they came to enter the building. Both testified the door had been unlocked. Wisth said he had not had sufficient time between the purchase of the building, which he was not able to inspect before purchase, and the demolition order to begin repairs.
"The city certainly didn't step in and say anything about the building (prior to the tax sale)," Wisth said.
With the board's decision to uphold the demolition order, Wisth has 21 days from official receipt of the ruling to file a second appeal with the Marquette County Circuit Court. The ruling was expected to be mailed today.
In 2009, the city of Ishpeming began using code enforcement to identify and demolish unsafe buildings, and has taken down roughly eight to date.
"It's really a community development issue and improving the quality of the community," Ottenwess said, adding that removing unsafe buildings provides opportunities for communities to regenerate. "It's a problem that's being faced by municipalities across Michigan."
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.