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Abandoned Mercer Island property sold
A derelict, mid-Island property along West Mercer Way slated to be demolished by the city has been purchased. It will be fixed or torn down by a new owner. If it had not sold, it would have been the first time in more than twenty years of that a private home was to be taken over and demolished by the city.
According to the city’s code official, Don Cole, the house has been sold and the new owners will meet with the city this week to discuss their plans for the property.
“The new owners are going through the permit process to see how they are going to look at their options with regard to full or partial demolition or a remodel,” said Cole. “They plan to meet with the city to discuss their findings and talk about what they are going to be doing with the building and the options they are considering.”
In a letter sent to Cole last week, the new owner wrote that a structural engineer determined that 60 percent of the existing building could be preserved. The unstable foundation of the structure could also be stabilized by shoring the portions of the home to be saved while the remaining portions are demolished and will not remain on the site. Cole said his exchanges with the new owner are just preliminary at this point, as the owner has yet to apply for permits. The letter to Cole indicates that soil and mold inspections will also take place as part of the redevelopment process.
“A structural engineer, geotech and hygienist will go through the building and talk about what they are going to be doing with it,” Cole said.
With the sale of the mold-infested, four-bedroom home that was built in 1969, the city will no longer have to pay for the demolition that the City Council decided to fund in April. Last spring, the Council set aside a maximum of $80,000 from its year-end surplus for the abatement of the property. The city also paid to have a rental fence placed around the dangerous structure. City Attorney Katie Knight said last Monday that a portion of the city’s money may still be needed for the property abatement, but the final cost would be nowhere near what the Council approved.
City officials became concerned about the abandoned light-blue home at 5075 West Mercer Way after it was condemned in 2006. The house is in violation of 18 city codes — it is falling apart, has a large tree leaning on its roof, and its supports are barely holding it up on a steep slope. The run-down home had clearly become a liability issue when the city recommended that the City Council approve its demolition with city funds last April. A tax lien was to be instated on the .4-acre property to repay the city. County records show that the property and home have an assessed value of $672,000, but the sale record has not been recorded yet with the assessor.
In addition to the dangers posed by the neglected structure, the absence of the former owner and his reluctance to work with the city to make it safer exacerbated the need for the city’s involvement. As of November 2007, the previous owner, Robert Martin Storwick, owed the city more than $33,000 for the code violations, with the penalties accruing at about $100 each day. Cole said those fines are still in place and would carry over to the new owners.
The abatement of the home would have been the first in many years — perhaps ever — to take place on Mercer Island. In April, City Manager Rich Conrad told the Council that he had never seen a derelict home go so far without a private owner willing to step in to buy and demolish the existing structure or rebuild a new home. The city usually doesn’t have to pay for such problematic structures, he said. Cole acknowledged that property values on Mercer Island usually lead to a sale and redevelopment before an abatement.