Condemnation hearing set for 'dangerous' house in Fargo's Hawthorne neighborhood

FARGO - Photographs taken by city building inspectors show the 120-year-old house at 1011 5th Ave. S. in a state of decay with water damage, gaping holes in the ceiling and an old tarp covering part of the roof.City staff said complaints against ...
This 120-year-old house seen Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at 1011 5th Ave. S. in Fargo’s Hawthorne neighborhood has been deemed too dangerous for occupation. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO - Photographs taken by city building inspectors show the 120-year-old house at 1011 5th Ave. S. in a state of decay with water damage, gaping holes in the ceiling and an old tarp covering part of the roof.

City staff said complaints against the property in the Hawthorne neighborhood, known for many historic homes, go back more than a decade.

But the end of the road may be near, with city staff demanding the owner repair the house or demolish it and city commissioners voting Monday, Dec. 4, to hold a condemnation hearing at their next meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18.

Christine Rose, deputy administrator for the city's inspections division, said she couldn't remember the last time such a hearing was held. The city has usually gotten "lucky" with property owners eventually agreeing to fix their properties or sell to others who will, she said.

City records show the current owner is an entity called Premium Mortgage Acquisition Trust in Houston, and Rose said she has heard there is an interested buyer.

The white, two-story house was built in 1897 in a plain gable-front style. It's a few blocks north and west of several historic districts in the neighborhood but is not itself considered historically significant.

Bruce Taralson, the inspections administrator, said in a report that violations at the property go back to 2001. Records his division provided to city leaders list some of the more recent violations, including a deteriorating balcony, deck and shed, and junk vehicles in October 2013. The owner, unnamed in the complaints, repeatedly blew off appointments with city inspectors over the next year.

Zillow, the real estate website, reported the lender foreclosed on the house in May 2016. By June of this year, inspectors found the building vacant with doors and windows open. The roof was caving in, and there was a moldy smell coming from the house, inspectors reported. They tried to gain access to the inside, but the owner didn't show up for several appointments.

Inside, they took photos of holes in some ceilings and of tarps on other ceilings, suggesting the roof was leaking. Mold grew on the ceiling, and water stains marred some walls. A city assessor, Robert Harshberger, reported the cost of fixing the property was more than half the value of the home, currently assessed at $178,200. Under city law, that allows the city to classify the house as a "dangerous building" and demand the owner repair or demolish it.

An orange placard forbidding anyone from entering the building is now at the front door.

The owner and other interested parties will have a chance to explain themselves at the Dec. 18 hearing. City leaders can decide at that time whether to order a demolition and, if the owner fails to do so, to have staff hire a contractor and assess the owner.