City to demolish condemned home

City officials have decided to demolish this condemned house at 5075 West Mercer Way. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
City officials have decided to demolish this condemned house at 5075 West Mercer Way.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

An abandoned home located on West Mercer Way has been slated for demolition now that the City Council has approved its abatement.

City officials are concerned about the light-blue home at 5075 West Mercer Way because it is falling apart, has a large tree leaning on its roof, and the house’s supports are barely holding it up on a steep slope. The house has been condemned since 2006 and is in violation of 18 city codes.

According to the city’s report, the structure has been deemed unsafe and unsecured with a significant amount of garbage and debris inside. There is also an abandoned car — an old, small, rusty-colored Chevette — in the driveway.

According to the city’s code official, Don Cole, the property owner is unreachable and the lending institution decided to stop its own demolition proceedings, causing the city to take action for the protection of public safety and welfare.

The city estimates that the cost for the demolition and restoration of the house will be $60,000 to $80,000. A state-licensed structural engineer will inspect the property and provide recommendations to assure that there will not be any eminent risks to neighbors or the general public.

During the Council meeting on Monday, City Manager Rich Conrad said it was the first time in his long tenure with the city that he has seen a derelict property go as far as abatement.

“We usually find an owner to take responsibility,” Conrad said. “But this poses a real risk to public safety. If somebody jumps the fence, they could get hurt.”

Cole said the property would be hydro-seeded for grass and probably overtaken by blackberry bushes in a short period of time. He also said it was a rare occasion for the city to take such drastic steps toward an abandoned property.

“I am not aware of comparable derelict houses and have not received any complaints about other houses,” Cole said.

He also said that no other buildings on the Island have been “tagged.” As Conrad told the Council, Cole acknowledged that this is unusual for Island properties.

“With strong property values on Mercer Island, poorly maintained structures are normally removed via redevelopment,” Cole said.

As of November 2007, the property owner, Robert Martin Storwick, owed the city more than $33,000 for the code violations. That money accrues about $100 each day. The lending institution also took over the house in October 2006. As of July 2006, Storwick only owed the bank $16,000 for the mortgage and non-payment fees.

The city has lost contact with Storwick, who has not returned phone calls, e-mails and certified mail sent to his Island P.O. Box. After initial conversations with Storwick last December, Cole said they discussed the conditions of the property and the code violations. At that time, Storwick stated he had not received any notices of violation and assured Cole that he would put up security fencing, which he did not. The city paid for the fencing currently up. A tax lien will be instated on the property to repay the city, and county records show that the .4-acre property has an assessed value of $668,000. The four-bedroom home was built in 1969.

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