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Resident wants dangerous property cleaned up

Clay Township, St. Joseph County, Ind. -- The mailbox is overflowing, the weeds and trees have grown out of control and there are holes in the home that allows animals to go in and out. The woman who lives next door to the dilapidated property has been trying to get someone to do something about the property for a couple of years.

"I tried the assessor's office, I tried the building department, left messages with the health department I didn't get nowhere," said Kelly Blakely.

Blakely lives next door to a dilapidated property off Ironwood Road near Bulla Road.

After three years, she's just about had it.

"It's just around and around, call this person, call that person. It's a full circle. It's horrible," said Blakely.

Blakely says there are deep holes in the yard.

"Right here is where I put some wood down. There's a big hole - it's an open dry well. I was afraid for other people, children, falling in that hole so I put that there about two years ago," said Blakely.

She says there are holes in the vacant house, so animals get inside."There are a lot of animals especially at night, raccoons are in the driveway, there are possums in the driveway, people walking around in the dark, I've confronted a few, they say they're working on the house, I know that's not the case," said Blakely.

"This is county, across the street is considered city. That's why I'm getting nowhere with code enforcement or the health department," said Blakely.

So today ABC 57 News went looking for answers.

We asked Mark Lyons with the building department why something has not been done.

"Under the county ordinance they must be structurally deficient for us to condemn them. This property in the past has not been deemed structurally deficient. We will investigate it again and see if the situation has changed," said Mark Lyons, Assistant Zoning Administrator of the building department.

Lyons said the county used to give them a $10,000 budget a year to take care of the worst property eyesores in the county limits and that didn't really help. However for the past few years the County administrators took that budget away.

The county doesn't have a property maintenance code such as the city of South Bend does or Mishawaka." said Lyons.

At the St. Joseph County Health Department, we learned the holes in the property could result in a lawsuit.

"We sent them a notice of legal action due to the threat of public health. They have not responded, which is past the due date so we will be filing a complaint with the court," said Marc Nelson, Environmental Health Director with the St. Joseph County Health Department. "It will order them immediately to fill the dry wells."

Nelson said they served the notice by certified letter but when he pulled the file he discovered the owners John P Owens and Devyn Kern Owens never received the notice because it was sent to the address (54310 Ironwood Road) of the property in question, which they have listed as their mailing address as well.

"Something needs to be done. This is too nice of a neighborhood to let it go like this," said Blakely who has lived in the area for the past 9 years.

She said come Notre Dame football season plenty of game goers walk down Ironwood and turn west on Bulla making their way to campus. Because of the over grown yard pedestrians are forced into the busy 4-lane traffic roadway which could end in a fatality. "Notre Dame, the big exciting time and I think it's very dangerous for e veryone around it."

A check at the the Auditors office shows the Owens have owned the property since 2004. Records show they have never been delinquent on their taxes.

We tried to contact both of the owners via phone numbers listed with directory assistance  however one of the numbers was wrong, at the other number no one answered.

Nelson said once the case goes to the legal department the county will impose a $500 fee for each day that the holes are not filled in, which could add up to some very hefty fines.
 

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