Sunday, May 31, 2009

Derelict, Foreclosed and Abandoned Properties

This is an excerpt from the City Manager's report that is included in this coming City Commission agenda. I encourage you to read it in it's entirety since it is the most exhaustive assessment of what is going on behind the walls of City Hall that I have seen - ever. In a city that treats any information like golden nuggets, this is a refreshing change!

I've been following one particular property at 1203 S. Palmway. The long-time owner sold it a little more than two years ago after having trouble convincing the city that demolition and the work she was going to do to build a new structure was a good idea. They weren't going to let her tear it down. The property is in a historic district and somehow that caused an insurmountable problem. Nothing in the Historic District ordinance says that you can't tear a structure down. The owner got tired of the hassle, sold the property to someone else - the real estate agent listed it then as "land only" which acknowledged that the house was essentially not there. Even though today it still is very much there and in the same or worse condition than it was 2 years ago.

The new owner defaulted on the loan and it is now foreclosed and owned by the mortgage holder. There are code fines running on the property to the tune of $35,000+. According to the Mayor, the city has no money to demolish structures like this - even though the city can lien a property for the expense. Palm Beach County had a program, I am not sure of its existence still, that would pay for demolitions here in Lake Worth. One enterprising member of the Historic Resource Preservation Board took advantage of that program in demolishing a contributing property on North O Street. I also understand that the city is trying to foreclose on the property as well - this on top of the mortgage holder who also must eventually be satisfied.

According to the excerpt above, there are 40 properties that have been red tagged (as this one has.) To date, six have been demolished by the owner, one by the city and 23 are in permitting. This doesn't add up to 40 - adds up to the 30. Either that is a misprint, or there are 10 other properties here and there that are in another sort of limbo.

Here are pictures of the property at 1203 S. Palmway as it appeared last week. The building sits at a prominent corner in the neighborhood.

Can we come back to a point where we can entertain requests for demolitions and approve new construction that is sensitive to the historic context of a neighborhood? If not, we are going to have even more of these sorts of properties springing up around the city - especially in light of the mortgage foreclosure crisis we are experiencing now. And, what is the city going to do with this property if they do foreclose? How is that any better than what could have been permitted two or three years ago?

I have more back-up information. If you are interested, please e-mail me.