Stanford comdemning Maxwell Street properties

September 05, 2003|EMILY BURTIN


Staff Writer

STANFORD - Condemnation proceedings were started Thursday against four properties on Maxwell Street as part of a controversial street redevelopment project. City council members voted unanimously in favor of the condemnations.

The resolution for the proceedings was brought before the council by the Maxwell Street Redevelopment Project. Bryan Kirby, program administrator, said the condemnation proceedings allow the Lincoln County Circuit Court to act as an agent to escrow funds for the heirs of the three derelict houses and one vacant lot.

"This is all we have so far, we'll be back," Kirby told the council.

The three houses are located at 235 Maxwell Street, 304 Maxwell Street and Adora Court. The vacant lot is a small strip of land also located on Maxwell Street. The owner of the vacant lot is unknown. City Clerk Sandy Gooch said the owners of the properties are Willy Brown, the heirs of Laura Helm and the estate of Ed Gooch as owners .


"I think condemnation right now is a way for the project to progress," said Jacqueline Walker, secretary of the Maxwell Street Committee, a liaison group between the city and street residents.

The redevelopment project has offered to purchase the house at 235 Maxwell for the appraised value, but the owner said the offer was unacceptable.

Susan Ann Cherry, owner of more than an acre of Maxwell Street land that could be condemned in the near future, says the city is not giving fair prices for property, not appraising the entire property before making an offer and operating on a good-old-boy network.

"I want to sell my land, but I want a fair deal," said Cherry. "They haven't even appraised all of my land. They just give me a figure on a piece of paper with their names on it."

The Lincoln Property Valuation Administrator's office said this morning that two of the lots were appraised in 2002. The combined value is $14,500.

Cherry said she hired an engineer to survey the land and was told the city's offer of $10,200 seemed low. With city utility access already available, Cherry is asking $23,000 for her acre of land and the option she owns on another half acre. She said that, according to the price given for her neighbor's smaller piece of land, her property has a comparable price of about $32,000.

"If they sue me, I'll probably sue back," said Cherry, "because I feel like it is harrassment."

Walker said she thought the project was a worthy cause and hoped residents were getting a fair deal.

"I want every resident to be treated fairly, and I think that, especially with the elderly, they should be reassured that they are being treated right," said Walker. "I think so far it's been a good thing for the people, and hopefully by 2004 we can look back and be proud of the neighborhood."

More than $333,000 has already been spent by the project on Maxwell Street properties. Seven houses have already been renovated.

"Several will be sold to the Lincoln County Habitat for Humanity, and several will be made available to relocated renters and relocated owners," said Kirby.

A historically African-American section of the city, Kirby said the building standards on Maxwell Street were not strictly enforced when lots were being divided decades ago, leading to "shot-gun" houses thrown together on crowded lots.

"Some lots are only 20 feet wide. You can't fit a house on that," said Kirby. "That's the whole purpose here, to renovate what we can and combine lots."

In addition to providing affordable homes on Maxwell Street, future redevelopment projects could include razing the old slaughter house.

As a participant in several such redevelopment projects around the country, Kirby said each have brought pride back to the community.

"The neighborhood stays alive that way," said Kirby, "and it keeps it from crumbling."

"It's a million dollar project, and the end result should look like a million dollar project," said Walker.

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