By Ashley Luthern
Neighbors who live near a Volney Road house that is spared demolition, at least temporarily, say they want its demolition to go forward and will attend a Wednesday hearing about the house.
The house at 2278 Volney Road is owned by Thomas T. Kelly, who through his lawyer, said: “The property is not unsafe, a nuisance or unsanitary and blighted” when requesting a restraining order Tuesday to prevent the city from razing it.
That is untrue, neighbors said.
Bruce Harapcio has lived in the Idora Neighborhood, which borders a portion of Mill Creek Park, since 1996.
“From Day One, that house has been an eyesore,” he said. “The big landmark he had was a huge, heavy tow-chain hanging from a front-yard tree and attached to the chain was a large piece of garbage, a rocking horse and street signs right by the sidewalk,” Harapcio said.
He said he plans to attend Kelly’s 2 p.m. Wednesday preliminary-injunction hearing.
“The neighborhood is being built up again with quality citizens and quality homes. That house is pulling everyone down. You have the beautiful park setting and this ugly deplorable property,” Harapcio said.
Idora Neighborhood Association president James London said Kelly’s house has dissuaded two prospective home buyers from moving to the area.
“I’ve tried all my connections to get [Kelly] some help. He won’t accept help. For about five years I worked on that, and he just hollers at me,” London said.
The house at 2278 Volney Road has been a long-standing concern in the neighborhood, said Ian Beniston, deputy director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.
“I know of residents complaining about it since 1997. I have a letter to [former Youngstown] Mayor George McKelvey where a resident has
obviously made a complaint,” Beniston said.
The house is a haven for health problems, he added.
“He’s a hoarder. He has stuff from floor to ceiling. He cannot enter the house through a door and uses a ladder to enter though a window. There is no running water. ... And the property itself is deteriorating,” Beniston said.
When a Vindicator photographer visited the property Tuesday and spoke to Kelly, the homeowner said: “I’m going to move back in the house, and I’m going to fix it all up. I’ve got the money.”
“I got a lot of stuff in there. They call it junk,” he added.
London said although there has been a long wait for a resolution, he is “very happy” with the response from current city officials including Mayor Charles Sammarone.
DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff, sent Kelly a letter April 11, saying the Volney Road house “is vacant, structurally unsound, and also poses a danger to surrounding occupied structures” and to firefighters, if they enter it.
“This is an immediate emergency situation,” Kitchen wrote, adding the city intended to demolish the house immediately.
In court documents filed by his lawyer Donald P. Leone, Kelly said he has not had a chance to remove his personal belongings from the premises since receiving the letter.
“I think the whole point of the case was that the property was declared that it was subject to demolition.
Under the housing code down at the city, they have a right to appeal that and have a hearing. [Kelly] did that, but before they have any hearing, he had received a letter from [Kitchen] saying it’s not safe, and we’re going to tear it down immediately,” Leone said.
Leone said he argued that Kelly has at least a right to an appeal hearing and due process under the city housing code, instead of receiving notification of demolition and then having a bulldozer show up on the property shortly after.
“I took photos of the property and it’s in tough shape. ...[Kelly] has to improve it or tear it down. He needed some time to get his personal
property from the old family home. Hopefully, we can resolve it all on Wednesday,” Leone said.
London said he understands Kelly wants to retrieve his belongings, but he disagrees with the statement in Kelly’s affidavit that the house is “not unsafe.”
“I’d like to tell [Kelly’s] lawyer, ‘If you think it’s that safe and solid, then bring your family and stay for a week or a weekend, and tell me if it’s livable. If you still think it’s safe, then I’ll retract everything I said,’” London said.
Leone said the documents he filed were to preserve Kelly’s right to due process.
“I want the housing stock to be good in the city. Sometimes you have things in [these homes] that you should have, at least, the opportunity to retrieve before the bulldozer comes,” Leone said.