Abatement order for Washington Street property granted by Bloomington board of public works

The city of Bloomington plans either to hire a contractor or send its own staff to the property at 530 Washington St. to bring it into compliance with a local law.

The law says you can’t “throw, place, or scatter any garbage, recyclable materials or yard waste over or upon any premises, street, alley, either public or private…”

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s three-member board of public works granted a request from the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, for abatement of Joe Davis’s residential property.

Davis had previously appeared before the board to appeal a total of $200 in fines imposed for the city’s notices of violations, saying that the materials that are stacked around his property are not garbage, but rather building materials and tools. They’re needed for the kind of active construction site he is overseeing, he has said.

That’s the position that Davis has outlined in a tort claim that he has sent to the city. The claim is against the city of Bloomington, the HAND department, the department of public works, and the board of public works.

Under an abatement order, the city will be able to send Davis a bill for the work that’s done on the property to bring it into compliance.

At Tuesday’s board of public works meeting, assistant city attorney Chris Wheeler quizzed HAND compliance officer Rob Council about the notices of violation that he’d written for the property, which go back to the last part of 2022. Council confirmed that he’d written the notices, based on the conditions of the property that he saw.

Council also told the board that last week, he had taken the two photographs of the front and back of the property that were included in the board’s meeting information packet.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Davis said the photographs were not an accurate representation of the current situation. After apologizing for his appearance—he was wearing work coveralls—Davis told the board in the last 10 days he’d put in 110 hours working on the property.

“The place is looking great. I mean it’s looking fantastic. It’s amazing,” Davis told the board. He continued, “I have been consolidating my building materials, placing them on my trailer and my truck.” He added, “There’s still a few boards that need to go up on my vehicles.”

Davis said he needed a couple more weeks to complete the work. “I would say that it’s 90 percent. there right now. What I need is probably two weeks to process those panels, and to continue to sort of tighten up some things.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Elizabeth Karon asked Davis about the photograph showing the front of his property, which appeared to show a discarded cereal box, a CD, and a pile of hats. She asked Davis about his description of “building materials.”

Davis told her that the hats—one was a cowboy hat and another was a construction hat—were now indoors. “Those are inside right now. Many of those items on the front porch are indoors.” He added, “That’s an old photograph.”

During public commentary, a neighboring property owner expressed skepticism that any progress had been made. Ranatta Raper—whose R Place, LLC owns a half dozen properties on Washington within a block of Davis’s place—said, “I personally was at the property next door last Monday and Tuesday. I didn’t see one thing moved.”

Raper also described the house on Davis’s property as “not in good condition.” She pointed out that the roof is tarped, and she called it “unsafe” and “an eyesore.”

Raper told the board she had lost tenant renewals and new leases because of the condition of Davis’s property. The situation had not emerged just recently, Raper said. “I’m just frustrated because it has been years and years of dealing with this nonsense, of dealing with a property owner that will not take pride and clean up this mess,” Raper added.

In addition to the enforcement action that Bloomington’s HAND department is pursuing against the property, the city’s planning and transportation department has sought enforcement of the unified development ordinance (UDO) prohibitions against outdoor storage of “equipment, materials, waste or scrap materials” [20.03.030(e)(1)]

At its Feb. 23 meeting, Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals heard Davis’s appeal from a warning he received from the planning and transportation department for the UDO violation. The BZA denied that appeal.

At Tuesday’s board of public works meeting, assistant attorney Wheeler responded to a board question by saying he is not sure exactly when Davis’s property will be abated or if it will be a contractor that does the work.

Wheeler told the board that after the formal notice of the abatement order, the director of public works will typically give the property some kind of heads up that the city’s or the contractor’s work will be starting.

Davis is working to collect the 352 signatures that are required to appear on the ballot in November’s city elections, as an independent candidate for mayor of Bloomington.

2 thoughts on “Abatement order for Washington Street property granted by Bloomington board of public works

  1. It’s weird to me that during the discussion of this particular property (or the reporting of it) no one has mentioned that the house was partially destroyed by fire several years ago and never repaired. I began to question that I was thinking of the correct house but the photo that accompanies the article does show fire damage in the gable end over the front porch. The tarp on the roof dates from the fire, which occurred years ago. I’m all for relaxed enforcement in order to give a homeowner a break, but it seems like HAND has bent over backwards long enough.

  2. Thank you, to the Beacon for this coverage.

    As everyone, I am in pursuit of the ‘American Dream’ of home ownership, and security. In this past year, I was able to pay off my home mortgage, and assume, in semi-retirement, the opportunity to begin to rebuild, and improve my homestead investment with a daily effort. Yes, my property was majorly damaged by a house fire two years before I purchased it. It has been a rough go, at times, living in a construction zone. But, I believe that a person must be able to improve their own physical lot, and personal security, as they are able.

    A garden grows from seed, and young plantings. We must incorporate the ‘natural time’ that is beholden to any process of growth.. If anyone would like to share in my garden bounty, I will prepare a meal for you.

    Housing, and homestead improvement, is a Right. Harassment based on politics, and elitist aesthetics is a Wrong.

    We are the people, who must serve the people. Anything less is unacceptable.

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