Neighbor upset about burned-out house
By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó Clement Radcliff said his next-door neighbor’s house burned almost a year and a half ago.
The brick ranch structure at 213 17th St. in Spencer has since sat empty. The fire didn’t gut the house, but damage was extensive.
There’s evidence of smoke damage around the eaves. Police tape still dangles from the front porch railings. Behind the house lies everything from box springs to wadded-up blankets that have been exposed to the elements for more than a year.
Radcliff said the grass at his neighbor’s house has only been mowed once this year. In the front yard is a downed tree.
All of the mess has left Radcliff, who has been living next door for 18 years, wondering when the situation is going to be rectified.
“I can handle it being burned out, but this … ” he said, his voice trailing off as he pointed at the trash and shook his head in disgust.
Radcliff said he’s contacted officials with the town of Spencer, but they haven’t given him a date for when the property will be cleaned.
“Me and my grandchildren come out and it’s just an eyesore,” he said. “Hey, I’m paying taxes. There’s no bang for your buck, no bang for your buck.”
Town Manager Larry Smith admitted that getting burned-out houses repaired or demolished can be a problem for municipalities. He said there’s often a question of who owns the property ó the owner at the time of the fire or the insurance company.
Smith said that according to housing codes, burned houses are supposed to be repaired within 180 days. That’s often impossible, Smith said, because the owner hasn’t settled with the insurance company in that time frame.
It’s difficult to issue an order for abatement when the town doesn’t know who owns the property.
“It’s all convoluted,” Smith said. “When it comes to a burned house, there’s not a single case that’s the same.”
He and Nate Ross, the town’s code enforcement officer, said the news for Radcliff concerning the house on 17th Street appears fairly positive.
Ross said the town has been attempting for months to track down the property owner and require that he clean the premises.
“We’ve made numerous attempts to try and get hold of him,” Ross said.
He said a certified letter has been sent to the owner, who apparently still lives in the area. Ross said if the owner doesn’t respond to the letter within a week and clean the property, the town will step in and issue an order for abatement.
“We’ll send a crew in and do the work,” Smith said.