Dayton nuisance properties: Looks can be deceiving, official says, as $15M demo work begins

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A home on Chapel Street in Old North Dayton is prepared and demolished.

The home at 1516 Chapel St. in Old North Dayton that the city tore down on Tuesday didn’t look that bad from the outside.

But the inside was a complete disaster, and the home is a good reminder that not all of the properties on the city’s nuisance list are atrocious eyesores at the street level.

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Before the nuisance house on Chapel St. was demolished Tuesday June 21, members of the media were invited into the structure. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Before the nuisance house on Chapel St. was demolished Tuesday June 21, members of the media were invited into the structure. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition  JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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Before the nuisance house on Chapel St. was demolished Tuesday June 21, members of the media were invited into the structure. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition and more than $18 million on new housing plus home rehab and repairs. Housing inspectors are doing a citywide sweep to identify nuisance properties and try to determine which ones can be salvaged and which need to be removed.

The city hopes to have the evaluation process finished by the fall and wants to begin American Rescue Plan Act-funded demolition and housing improvement work within a year, said Steven Gondol, Dayton’s deputy director of planning and community development.

“Our charge for the Dayton Recovery Plan from the city manager has been ‘impactful’ — making sure that we’re using the funds to have an impact ... whether it is expanding green space for the community or putting together a future in-fill site for housing,” Gondol said.

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The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $33 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition and new housing and home rehab and repairs. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $33 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition and new housing and home rehab and repairs. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $33 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition and new housing and home rehab and repairs. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

On Tuesday, a city-hired contractor demolished a two-story home at 1516 Chapel St.

The home’s exterior was in decent shape, but the inside was a very different story.

Neighbors say the former owner sold drugs out of the home and bred pit bulls, and the inside was full of trash and dog feces, which passers-by could smell if they got close to the front door.

The city acquired the Chapel Street property following issues with criminal activities, and inspectors found a significant number of dogs on-site that were removed by local animal control authorities, said Ken Jackson, a nuisance abatement specialist with the city.

Inspectors also found evidence of dog-fighting, a drug grow operation, credit card-manufacturing devices and other illegal activities, he said.

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A cow skull was found in a nuisance house on Chapel St. in Old North Dayton Tuesday June 21. The house was filled with dog cages potentially used to hold dogs for fighting, JIM NOELKER/STAFF

A cow skull was found in a nuisance house on Chapel St. in Old North Dayton Tuesday June 21. The house was filled with dog cages potentially used to hold dogs for fighting, JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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A cow skull was found in a nuisance house on Chapel St. in Old North Dayton Tuesday June 21. The house was filled with dog cages potentially used to hold dogs for fighting, JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Mark Winkle, 62, who lives across the street, said he witnessed and videotaped many drug transactions and illegal activities at the home but it took a long time for authorities to respond to his complaints.

He said he’s glad the home was taken down but he wishes it didn’t have to come to that.

“I would have rather seen it rehabbed, but considering the amount of dog crap in there ... People walk past it and say, ‘My god, what is that smell,’ ” he said.

The former owner also removed a load-bearing wall that destabilized the floors upstairs, and some of the support posts in the basement had rotted away.

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The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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The nuisance property on Chapel St. was demolished on Tuesday June 21. The city is preparing to spend more than $15 million of its federal rescue funds on blight demolition. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

City staff and officials with partner organizations walked through and evaluated the Chapel Street home multiple times, and they initially hoped it could be rehabbed.

But there were simply too many problems that would cost a fortune to fix.

However, Pathway to Homeownership, a County Corp. program, is considering constructing a new home on the now-leveled site.

The city tries to have a strategic reuse plan for nuisance properties it tears down, Gondol said, though he acknowledges that some structures need to come down for safety reasons, regardless of the property’s reuse potential.

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The home at 1516 Chapel Street before it was torn down on Tuesday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The home at 1516 Chapel Street before it was torn down on Tuesday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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The home at 1516 Chapel Street before it was torn down on Tuesday. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

ARPA funds

Dayton has been awarded nearly $138 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the city plans to spend $55 million to improve neighborhoods.

The city says this will include about $34.5 million for demolition and improving housing conditions, such as investments in new and in-fill housing and housing rehab and repair.

Last weekend, inspectors finished a nuisance property sweep in the Riverdale area, and they’ve finished sweeps in prioritized target areas identified by the city’s ARPA spending plan, like the Old North Dayton, Miami Chapel, Edgemont, Five Oaks, Twin Towers and Carillon neighborhoods.

Gondol said the goal is to provide the city manager and internal partners with a complete list of nuisance properties by the end of the summer.

Tuesday was the first day of summer.

City staff will present recommendations for demolition and stabilization, and will share information about each nuisance property, like age, condition and proximity to other ARPA-funded projects.

The city’s nuisance list currently contains about 1,440 properties.

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Ken Jackson, a city of Dayton nuisance abatement specialist, walks through a home on Chapel Street before its demolition on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Ken Jackson, a city of Dayton nuisance abatement specialist, walks through a home on Chapel Street before its demolition on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Ken Jackson, a city of Dayton nuisance abatement specialist, walks through a home on Chapel Street before its demolition on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Like the Chapel Street home, some properties across the city look good on the outside but are dangerous or deplorable inside, Gondol said, adding that this sometimes occurs when rain and water intrusion causes the inside floors to cave in.

Also, Gondol said, some Dayton homes look terrible from the outside but actually are in pretty good shape and really only need a new roof or other manageable repairs or stabilization work.

The city is working with local partners, like County Corp., to identify opportunities to rehab and reuse nuisance properties or redevelop the lots if the homes need to come down, Gondol said.

He said the city would like to see as many existing homes rehabbed as possible, as new construction costs have increased and rehab can be a cheaper option.

The city also has the ability to make some home repairs to stabilize nuisance properties to prevent further deterioration and then place a tax assessment on the property for the stabilization costs, Gondol said.

Jackson, the nuisance abatement specialist, said inspectors often can tell whether a home has significant structural damage based on external conditions.

If there are holes in the roof, water damage is very likely.

“A lot of times people will say, ‘Why are you tearing that house down — it looks great,’” Jackson said. “But they haven’t taken a look and seen that on the backside the whole foundation is washed out and the dirt is filling the basement and the house is in danger of collapse.”

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