August 4, 2015 [Grant Segall, The Plain Dealer]
MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio — Leaders of three southwestern suburbs expect soon to demolish more neglected homes.
Middleburg City Council voted last month to authorize demolitions if necessary of three homes on Engle, Pearl and Fowles roads. Building Commissioner Norm Herwerden says the Engle homeowner has made some repairs and might be able to save the house. Herwerden expects the other two to be razed this year.
Each of the three cities has demolished three or more decaying homes in the past few years. Mayor Gary Starr of Middleburg, where five homes were razed last year, says demolition “sends a message to owners that want to damage their neighborhoods: ‘We are going to protect against any collapse of our property values.’ Once your neighborhoods start deterioration, it’s impossible to go back and fix it. Let us be aware of what’s happening and stop it now.”
Officials say the typical demolished home had been neglected and vacant for a while. It might have belonged to a bank, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a dead owner’s estate or to an absent, unresponsive owner. It may have been beset with leaks, trash, mildew, vermin and more.
For the past few years, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation, commonly known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, has demolished decrepit homes for Berea and Middleburg and tried to recoup the cost from the owner. Other decaying homes there have been razed by the owners.
In Brook Park, Mayor Tom Coyne returned to office last year and hired a private contractor to raze three homes for about $12,000 apiece. He says the city has about 300 endangered homes, and he hopes to raze six to eight more of them soon.
In Berea, new private homes have been created on three of the demolition sites and a neighborhood garden on a fourth. Developers have bought some of the cleared sites in Middleburg and expressed interest in Brook Park.
Coyne says the biggest hurdles are loans. “The interest rates are great, but it’s still very hard to get money.”