House Demolition

Jim Beachner of JRB Industries uses a track hoe to remove the porch overhang on a house to be demolished across from Parsons Public Library. Beachner has a contract with the city of Parsons to demolish five homes and expects to finish most of the work by early next week.

Five decaying houses long considered an eyesore by most in the community are finally coming down, but the future of the cleared lots that will be left behind is yet to be determined.

After buying the five foreclosed homes from Golden Plains Credit Union for $10,000, the city of Parsons hired JRB Industries Inc. to demolish the condemned structures from 1620 to 1628 Belmont along with another at 310 S. 17th St. All five homes are adjacent to the Parsons Public Library.

As of Thursday night, JRB had demolished four of the five homes. The city is paying the company $37,500, meaning the city’s total investment on the properties is $47,500. The city hopes to recoup at least some of that total through the private redevelopment of the land.

The city plans to take proposals as early as Friday until the end of the month from anyone in the public willing to buy the land for redevelopment, City Manager Debbie Lamb said.

“We just want everybody to have a fair chance at it,” Jim Zaleski, economic development director, said.

As soon as Friday, the city staff plans to have requests for proposal packets available at the Parsons Municipal Building. Zaleski said the packets actually will consist of just one page of information about the city’s investment in the property and an image of the property showing where it is located. The sheet will ask potential developers what they plan to do with the land, how much they will pay for it and how soon the project could be completed.

All proposals will be considered, Zaleski said, whether they are simple, hand-written plans or more elaborate proposals with artist renderings or architectural sketches.

Zaleski said the city hopes to sell all five properties together. The city commission will approve the project and the sale of the land, possibly with a recommendation from the city staff. Zaleski said he has heard from people interested in building offices, a single-family house, a duplex and multiple-family housing.

Instead of focusing on the monetary value of the offers for the land, Zaleski said the city will consider what’s best for the community. He thinks there is a lot of value in the property because of its proximity to downtown and South 16th Street, which also is U.S. 59.

The agreement ultimately signed for the property will come with a reversion clause to ensure the property is developed in a timely manner.

“We don’t want them sitting there as vacant lots,” Zaleski said.

How quickly the lots can be developed likely will be a factor in choosing a project. Zaleski said the city decided to buy the properties so that the city could quickly demolish the houses and expedite the redevelopment process.

The homes had been in decline for many years, even as renters still occupied a couple. The city commission pushed for action on them, and eventually the city condemned the houses, four of which were two-story homes with multiple apartments.

Golden Plains had foreclosed on the homes and contacted the city to see if it was interested in buying them for redevelopment. Because the homes were condemned, the city could have forced Golden Plains to demolish the structures at its cost as it does for every other condemned house.

When owners of condemned structures fail to demolish them, the city eventually tears them down and charges the owner. If the owner doesn’t pay, the fee is assessed on the property taxes. If the property taxes aren’t paid for three years, the property can be placed on the next county tax sale, and the back taxes and assessments are wiped clean for all but the previous year. It’s unlikely that a financial institution would have shirked the responsibility of demolishing the homes and then fail to pay taxes, so the property could have been sold much sooner than the usual route for condemned homes had the city not bought them. Zaleski thinks the route the city chose still will lead to quicker redevelopment.

The city commission agreed to buy the homes on June 3. The city staff had hoped to have the homes demolished before now, but Zaleski said Jim Beachner, owner of JRB, had an illness in his family.

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