(NEWARK, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Newark Mayor Jeff Hall, and Newark Law Director Douglas Sassen today announced that lawsuits have been filed against two property owners whose homes fell into disrepair and were subsequently demolished by the City of Newark. The lawsuit seeks to reimburse the City for costs associated with three properties on Elmwood Street which were recently demolished.
“The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has designated significant resources from the National Mortgage Settlement to combat the blight of abandoned houses across Ohio,” said Attorney General DeWine. “However, not all abandoned properties are the result of the housing crisis or banking practices. There are occasionally egregious cases where negligent property owners have contributed to this problem and should be held liable for these demolition costs, instead of their neighbors and fellow taxpayers. These filings represent two such flagrant cases.”
“The City of Newark and my Administration look forward to its unique collaboration with the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Office to achieve results in collecting taxpayer dollars and funds expended from the Demolition Grant Program to correct safety hazards and blight within our community. The City of Newark, through the commitment and dedication of the Department of Development and the Department of Public Safety, through the Division of Property Maintenance, has made a positive impact within our community in its Property Maintenance Code enforcement efforts. This unique collaboration will only further enhance the efficiencies of the City and its employees in their endeavor to be responsive to the needs of our Community and our citizens,” Mayor Hall said.
A lawsuit was filed in Licking County Common Pleas Court against Ronald Watson, who owned two properties at 282-284 Elmwood and 308-310 Elmwood. A separate lawsuit was filed in Newark Municipal Court against Stephen and Patricia Trout, who owned property at 259 Elmwood. Despite being cited for code violations for several years, the owners took no action to address the violations or demolish the properties. After receiving notice that the properties needed to be demolished, the owners took no further action, and the responsibility for the demolitions ultimately fell on the City of Newark.
The lawsuits seek to collect the debt incurred by the City of Newark in demolishing the three properties, which totals more than $40,000 in demolition and asbestos abatement costs
Attorney General DeWine has worked with Newark and Licking County officials since he created the Demolition Grant Program in February. The Demolition Grant Program helps stabilize and improve communities by removing blighted and abandoned homes with funds from the national mortgage settlement reached earlier this year. While an exact total of abandoned homes is not available, conservative estimates place the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Ohio in need of immediate demolition at 100,000. DeWine and Mayor Hall attended one such demolition in Newark in October.
Dan Tierney, Ohio Attorney General's Office: 614-466-3840
Assistant Director of Law Jamie Farmer, City of Newark, 740-670-7880