City officials showing 'sensitivity' in handling fire-affected properties

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Cumberland Times-News

December 9, 2012


CUMBERLAND — Cumberland officials battle against blighted properties to keep the Queen City shining, but when it comes to properties ravaged by fire, a softer view is taken.

“We realize that a fire is a very traumatic event, as anyone who has experienced one surely knows,” said City Administrator Jeff Rhodes. “Dealing with the financial repercussions and the insurer can also add to the difficulty in resolving these issues. Recognizing that, city staff handles these instances with greater sensitivity than a typical blighted property.

“However, we also recognize the adverse impact a fire-damaged property has on neighbors and neighborhoods if repair or removal takes too long, so we try to stay on top of these properties and offer what assistance and encouragement we can to expedite the repair or removal,” he said.

Rhodes detailed the status of several fire-affected city properties, as related by the city’s community development officials, including:

• 212-214 Charles St. — The owner was cooperative and demolished the property on his own accord without the need for code enforcement. Demolition has been completed and the lot next to a commercial property belonging to the same owner has been graded.

• Estella Street — Demolition completed by the owner. The foundation was repurposed to create a deck for the adjacent family-owned property.

• Harrison Street — Extensive communication was necessary to prompt the insurance company/owner to begin demolition. The demolition is complete but additional work is necessary to reface the exposed wall and create a parking area for the remaining units.

• Williams Street — The owner/insurance company was cooperative and completed the demolition in a timely manner. Plans are in the works for possible outdoor recreation associated with the hobby shop.

• 627-629 Maryland Ave. — The city is in the process of acquiring 627 Maryland. The process is nearing completion and has been challenging for legal staff due to title issues regarding liens. Owners of 629 Maryland have been very cooperative and are willing to partner with the city for demolition. Preliminary plans have ensued, which could include redevelopment of the site.

“Each fire-damaged property tends to have a somewhat different set of circumstances involving the ownership, mortgage, insurer and financial capability of the owner. We recognize this and try to identify those challenges to help work through repair or removal as quickly as possible,” said Rhodes.