Commission tables property issue

TROY — After more than an hour of discussion, Troy Planning Commission members voted 4 to 3 to indefinitely table the application to raze a home in the southwest historical district owned by the First United Methodist Church. This will allow further discussion from the public once the Stay At Home order is lifted.

The motion will delay the decision until further notice. Mayor Robin Oda, Larry Wolke, Jim McGarry, Sandra Ehrlich voted in favor of the delay with Chairman Al Kappers, Patrick Titterington, Ed Westmeyer voting to move forward with a decision on the application.

The request was reviewed Wednesday. The church requests to demolish 126 S. Cherry St. to turn it into green space. While no specific letter was cited during the meeting, members of the planning commission received four letters in support of the demolition and more than 17 letters against the request. Those against the demolition included neighbors and the Troy Historical Society.

Kappers said he felt the commision had enough information to make a decision one way or the other, but said it was “a tough call.” Kappers said the church and congregation is well respected in town, but the issue is weighing the interest of the church against the historic district as a whole.

Wolke made the motion to postpone the issue indefinitely. Wolke said the online format wasn’t conducive to allow for public comments from both residents against the action and those in favor.

“Both sides have some valid things to present to us,” Wolke said. “I’m very concerned this is not the appropriate format.”

Director of Public Service and Safety Patrick Titterington said the applicant can reapply for another application, but the commission’s vote to table the issue would likely lead to further the property’s deterioration. Titterington said the commission had reviewed the letters from both sides and didn’t feel tabling the issue was necessary.

The application for demolition was filed by the owner, First United Methodist Church, by trustee chair Linda Bosick. The home is not on the national registrar of historic homes. The property has lead paint and is unable to be occupied by tenants. The church said they attempted to rent it as a commercial property, but it did not generate interest in a year. The church provided the planning commission an estimate of $223,504 to abate the lead paint and rehabilitate the property. An assessment and engineering report also noted foundation issues, unlevel floors and extensive wall and ceiling cracks. Planning and Zoning Director Tim Davis toured the building on two occasions, which he said helped to support the decision to raze it due to several building code violations such as old electric and structure issues.

City staff supported the church’s request to demo the residence.

“When comparing the rehabilitation costs versus clearing the property and creating green space, demolition makes the reasonable financial decision the prudent course of action. We believe demolition is a positive step for the neighborhood because the structure has not been occupied for over two years. The letter states the church wouldn’t sell the property, but would keep it as green space and likely use it for the church’s preschool program,” the report states.

Planning and zoning manager Tim Davis went over the criteria that the residence met to support their decision, including that it’s not a historic residence, the cost to repair the home’s issues is higher than its square footage of value, which was twice the amount of its market value with $118 per square foot, it was declared a public nuisance by the department of health and its removal would not alter the streetscape.

Member Sandra Ehrlich said while they received a lot of input from residents, she was concerned that those who were interested in the outcome were not able to be present or be able to make public comments.

Member Jim McGarry said he the majority of the issues being cited in favor of demolition applied to the majority of old homes and structures in the neighborhood and downtown Troy. He also said the church failed to do anything to the property for three years, including having the building property inspected prior to purchase and then again to have it razed.

“They let three years pass without doing any work or seeing about what kind of work needed to be completed,” McGarry said. “To me, it’s setting a precedence for destruction or negligence for future structures in the downtown area.”

Mayor Robin Oda also echoed McGarry’s sentiments of setting a precedence for future properties to be neglected in hopes to be razed, but noted the large expense to bring the home back to being habitable.

Westmeyer said he didn’t feel the church was being neglectful of the property since the issues existed before the church bought the property in 2013. Westmeyer said there would be a greater value to the block the church provides as a whole and to ask the church to pay $400,000 (renovation, plus purchase price) to mediate the issue was a big ask.

Council member Bobby Phillips, who represented the church, said the church was not interested in selling the property, but acquired the property to use it for its future plans.

• The Planning Commission also approved the request from Moeller Brew Barn to modify fence, install shade canopies and add a 15-foot tall storage “silo” on the property.

Church seeks to raze home; decision delayed for public input

By Melanie Yingst

myingst@aimmediamidwest.com

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