Editorial: Property rights apply to homeowners & their neighbors
The Superior Court Judge’s ruling to grant a stay on the demolition of a Petersburg home, which the borough deemed as a dangerous building, left a few unanswered questions.
The court was silent on the, “elephant in the room,” fact that the home has been sitting on the ground after falling off its foundation for nearly five years.
The homeowners Fred Triem and Karen Ellingstad have had plenty of time to repair the foundation and restore their home to a stable footing on their Wrangell Avenue property.
Efforts by the borough to push the process along prior to the December non-compliance hearing before the borough assembly were largely rebuffed by the property owners.
For the most part, folks in these parts try to be good neighbors. We stash our junk in the garage, a shed or under a tarp in the back yard. We mind our pets and we mind our manners, most of the time.
For some reason, Attorney Fred Triem has used the law to gain not only more time, but to elevate his property rights above those same rights held by his neighbors. Whatever happened to the concept of being a good neighbor? It’s simply not appropriate that a homeowner should be allowed to ignore the building codes of this community for 4-1/2 years and then go before the court to challenge the government orders to fix his house.
Many Petersburg property owners have experienced fires, roof failures, foundation collapses and similar events and they have cleaned up the mess within days, weeks and at the longest, months. But the undisputable fact is, the messes got cleaned up, repairs were made, buildings were razed, and rarely was enforcement action required, let alone a formal non-compliance hearing.
We’re surprised that the court found fault with the city’s December hearing, given the borough’s thick file of information concerning the failure of the home’s foundation. The only thing we find fault with is that the city should have conducted the hearing two years earlier. Given the ruling by the court, we hope the borough administration will have both building inspector Leo Luczak and the borough attorney at future hearings to make sure everyone’s rights, including those of neighboring property owners, are protected.
Some legal issues got in the way of common sense. Homes should meet minimum building codes; neighborhood property values must be maintained and the safety of the citizens kept secure. When that doesn’t happen, the borough needs to resolve the issues in less than five years time.