The Paragould City Council voted to condemn two properties this week, while it temporarily removed a third from consideration, and granted a reprieve to a fourth.
The council voted to condemn structures at 208 Landrum Lane and 308 E. Court St.
Joshua Martin, owner of the Landrum Lane property, told the council he had purchased the property recently with a view of refurbishing it.
“My intent is to clean out the sheetrock,” he said of smoke damage to the house’s interior walls from a fire before he bought it.
“Would you be willing to put up a bond?” Ward 1 position 1 council member Mark Rowland asked Martin. In response to a question from Martin, city attorney Allen Warmath explained that the city would first condemn the property, and then Martin and the city would work out an agreement requiring a cash bond for the demolition of the house. “And if you don’t have it repaired within the agreed-upon window of time,” he told Martin, “then they’re going to knock it down.”
Warmath went on to say that once the bond is in place, Martin would have to contact city inspector Greg Trout to learn what permits and inspections would be needed to reconnect electricity to the house. “Then you’ll have a period of time to get this thing [house] rehab’ed and livable,” he said.
“And you forfeit that bond if it’s not livable,” added Ward 2 position 1 council member Jeremy Biggs. “You understand that, right?”
“Yes sir, I do,” Martin replied.
“And any money you put into the property,” Biggs continued, “if it doesn’t pass inspection ... that would be forfeited as well.”
In response to a question from Martin regarding whether he would also lose the property, Biggs assured him he would not. “If we vote to condemn it,” Biggs said, “and you don’t want to move forward with the bond, and the rehab, the city would tear it down.” Any cost incurred by the city in demolishing the house would become a lien should sale of the debris not cover the cost. “Or you can tear it down,” Biggs concluded.
The council voted 8-0 to condemn both the Landrum property and the one on East Court, owned by Estella Jones.
Similar to what it had proposed to Martin, the council also voted to allow the city to accept a $5,000 cash bond and issue a building permit for a property at 1201 Lake St., which it had already condemned at its April 12 meeting. Mayor Josh Agee raised the issue as a preface to a presentation by attorney Roger Colbert regarding the property. “Mr. Colbert reached out to me,” he said, “and there is a pending sale on the property, and he wanted to know if there’s anything that could be done.”
Agee said the city had encountered similar situations regarding condemnations on Vance and on Seventh Streets, such that the building permits allowed an additional year to elapse before the city could pursue condemnation actions. “We couldn’t tear it down because it had a building permit,” he said. “And then after that year had expired, finally we tore it down.”
On the other hand, Agee said, information from a Municipal League meeting had revealed that the city of North Little Rock had developed a procedure by which it would allow the sale of a condemned property to proceed. However, the buyer would have to post a bond to cover the cost of abatement.
“If you guys want – and this is entirely your call,” Agee said to the council, “we can take a $5,000 bond and we will issue a temporary building permit for six months.”
If by the end of the six months the building does not have a certificate of occupancy, Agee continued, then the city would use the $5,000 to tear down the property. “And if he gets his ... certificate of occupancy,” he said, “we give him his money back.”
Colbert had told the council that the buyers, unaware of the condemnation, had already undertaken steps to buy the property and were planning to restore the house.
“I think that’s fair,” said Rowland. “In the best case, we restore the property, and the owner gets his money back.”
“And they’re licensed contractors,” Colbert added. “They do this all the time, so it’s not like a reach for them to do this on their own.”
The council adopted the recommendation unanimously.
It also voted to table until the May 25 meeting a fourth condemnation, of a house at 210 S. Seventh Ave. owned by George and Victoria Retherford. Although Victoria Retherford had acknowledged the house and been vacant for several years and had suffered damage from unauthorized occupation by homeless people, she also showed pictures to council members that showed substantial improvements to the house’s interior. “That is an improvement,” said Ward 4 position 2 council member Brad Baine.
“That’s presentable,” said Ward 1 position 2 council member Susan Williams. “It’s an improvement.”
“You are making an effort,” added Rowland.
The council voted to issue a building permit for property owned by Bobby and Stacy Ryall so the Ryalls can construct a commercial building at 201 S. Rockingchair Road to store carpet-cleaning equipment. Jean Goins, a resident on Maxwell Drive abutting the property in question, had previously expressed concern that traffic for the building could adversely impact her own property due to a perceived need for vehicles to use Maxwell to turn around.
“Bobby Ryall spoke to Mrs. Goins after the meeting,” said Colbert, “and she no longer opposes it.”