Boardman historic district fears possibility of blight

There is a ‘slum’-like building in the entry to the historic neighborhood.



BOARDMAN — Township officials and residents living near a six-plex apartment on Hillman Way have been trying to get the building repaired for years.

Their wait continues — with boards now gracing the building that sits amid well-kempt historic homes in Boardman.

William Busch, the building’s former owner, died in July 2006, leaving no surviving relatives. The place has been controlled by the Busch’s estate administrator, the Butler Wick Trust Co., which boarded it up in May.

“We’d like to see it either sold to someone or fixed up,” said Bert Ehrenberg, president of the North Boardman Neighborhood Watch.

The building sits near the entrance to the township’s historic district filled with older, well-maintained homes. A few vacant storefronts sit in a plaza across the street.

A bad impression

Other residents living near the building, who didn’t want their names used, are concerned about the appearance of the building and the impression it gives about the neighborhood.

“It looks like a slum,” one woman said.

For most residents, their homes are their largest investments, Ehrenberg said. They work hard to maintain their property, and they’re concerned that property values will decline.

They worry this signals the entrance of blight into their neighborhood, the block watch president said.

“It’s been a problem for a long time,” Ehrenberg said. “It needs to be taken care of.”

The township’s zoning department issued violations regarding the condition of the building in 2005, citing high grass and doors and windows in disrepair.

The township at that time was working with a property management company hired by Busch to repair the building. Busch had lived in the building before going into a nursing home.

But that stopped that same year when the probate court ordered Butler Wick to stop spending Busch’s money. The judge referred to a 2004 quit claim deed that indicated Busch transferred the property to Donald Snipes of Youngstown.

That put progress on hold until the building’s ownership could be determined.

The township then filed a lawsuit last year to try to expedite the ownership issue and get the building repaired.

In January, Judge Timothy P. Maloney of Mahoning County Probate Court ruled the quit claim deed void.

According to the judge’s ruling, a township detective testified that during his investigation into the property transfer, Snipes said that he had agreed to pay Busch $180,000 for the building.

There was no written purchase agreement and Snipes acknowledged that he hadn’t paid Busch the money, according to the detective’s testimony.

Getting boarded up

Once the judge issued his ruling, the township and residents living near the building expected repairs to begin. Instead, the building was boarded up.

Snipes appealed the probate judge’s ruling. If he wins, the property would revert to Snipes, explained Atty. Christopher J. Schiavone, who represents the trust company.

He said Butler Wick understands the frustrations of the residents and the township. They’ve have a good working relationship with the township in the past, but the company is trying to balance the issue of the necessary repairs with preserving the asset of the estate for its heirs, he said.

That’s why Schiavone plans to file an application for instructions with probate court, likely early next week.

“We want to find out what we can and cannot do,” he said.

Protecting assets

The boarding is to keep vandals out, thereby protecting the asset. It was done shortly after the last tenant moved out, the attorney said.

Darren Crivelli, township zoning inspector, is disheartened by the trust company’s actions.

“I’m very disappointed that Butler Wick boarded the building up,” he said. “It’s the gateway to the historic district, and it looks bad.”

Crivelli said the company and the township worked hand in hand to resolve the title issue, and he believes the township’s enforcement efforts helped expedite the judge’s ruling.

“It’s understandable that they want to preserve their client’s asset, but if they invested in it by maintaining it properly, it would be an asset for the estate,” the zoning inspector said.

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