Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Flame broiling is one thing, but this is ridiculous -- and dangerous.

Congratulations and condolences to the suddenly ascendant Tacos La Rosita restaurant on Charlestown Road.

On September 7, NA Confidential reported on Charlestown Road fire damage, and a new taqueria.

On my way to and from work, I usually bicycle across Charlestown Road from Terry, and take Ormond to hit the back streets on the north side. Yesterday, I was surprised to see a smoldering hulk where the tanning salon used to be.

On the brighter side, looking roughly southbound toward Shireman Produce, here's a view of the latest Mexican eatery in town, Tacos la Rosita.

Six weeks later, Tacos La Rosita is on a major critical roll. Why is this important? As reader Brandon Smith noted after Monday's posting on this topic:

We are amassing quite a little restaurant scene in New Albany, with more rumored to be on the horizon. The impact of these local restaurants goes far beyond just having a fun place to eat. It helps create the kind of atmosphere and lifestyle ammenities that attract and retain professional types, young folks, creatives, etc. The unique "feel" these places help give New Albany (and the region) is priceless.

First, LEO’s Marty Rosen wrote approvingly of La Rosita:

New Albany expands with flavorful barbecue and Mexican fare.

Then today, Robin Garr of the essential Louisville HotBytes web site followed suit with a great blog review of the establishment:

A bouquet for La Rosita

Think of all the people who’ll venture over the river to New Albany to take the recommendation offered by Marty and Robin, and undoubtedly they’ll get a great meal … but they’ll pass this to get there:

Yes, that's right.

Six weeks later, the burned-out Sun-Sation salon looks exactly the same, still vaguely reminiscent of a scene from a war zone, except I noticed today that someone has thoughtfully wedged a beam between the sidewalk and the fa├žade to keep a portion of the roof from falling completely down.

Yo, Steve L. and the Board of Public Works -- can you tell us why nothing whatsoever is being done about a structure that’s not only an eyesore, and a sad commentary for visitors to survey, but quite plainly poses a safety hazard to children (or drunks) who may be tempted to play in the ruins?

I'm sure there's an explanation.


All4Word said...

Maybe I'm naive, but six weeks isn't that long a time, is it? Just the insurance alone might dictate that. Isn't the law that you must demolish or restore within a year?

I don't know the answer. Anybody?

edward parish said...

That is my guess as well Mr. Gore.

The New Albanian said...

I haven't a clue what the rules are, but it's frustrating to think that finally we get some good press, and this is what people see.

edward parish said...

What is the new place on Vincennes in part of the old NA Plumbing building? Triko? Is this the Greek brasserie we were hoping for?

The New Albanian said...

Not sure, but the Greek place is back in Radcliffe, according to what I read recently on the restaurant forum.

Ann said...

There's a burned out house on State Street, opposite the hospital and about 4 blocks closer to town. It sat, charred and disgusting looking for months and apparently neighbors were complaining to no avail.

I believe the junk that had spilled into the yard finally was cleaned up, but the structure burned over a year ago and still stands. Doesn't look to be reparable.

S. LaDuke said...

Hey Roger,

Don't have an answer about the tanning salon on Charlestown Rd. ( I can see from my back yard by the way!) but I'll have anansweer after next Tuesdays BOW meeting.

As for the structure on State St. I have continually asked about this building and at the Building Commission meeting yesterday, I was told that the owner started working on that building this week. I believe the owner wants to renovate this building but I'm not really sure it's possible from what I can see.

We had a good meeting yesterday about how to start dealing with delapidated buildings in N.A. The negative, it always takes time to go through the legal notification process and the repossession of a property but, at least I think we're finally getting the ball rolling on this topic.

Steve LaDuke

Ann said...

Steve, can you tell me if the Building Commission has any plans to implement any type of inspection process for buildings so that they don't fall into total disrepair?

I'm talking about citing minor violations before they become big ones--things like missing windows, failing roofs and gutters, etc.

S. LaDuke said...

New Alb Annie,

As far as I know, that process is in place now. I know there have been several complaints from neighbors in the past about places where, for example the electrical service entrance conduit has fallen through the roof, or a tarp has been covering a hole in a roof or wall for an amount of time. If you see something like this in your everyday travels, feel free to contact the Building Commissioners Dept. and someone will go out to inspect that property. I know our new OEO has received some complaints like these and they too have been passed on to the Building Commissioners Office.

Hope this helps,
Steve LaDuke

Jeff Gillenwater said...

I understand from people in the building code and ordinance enforcement areas that, as Steve mentioned, tracking down the owners of delapidated buildings is often the most difficult part of enforcement.

Can someone educate me on the process? What are the legal requirements for attempting to contact property owners and who has the authority to change that process?

I don't necessarily think getting into the habit of ignoring or lessening owners' rights is a good thing, but there has to be a point at which we, as a municipality, can show that a goood faith effort has been made, thus allowing clean up and/or seizure without the owner's consent.

Ann said...


What I'm interested in is an inspection process that doesn't just rely on complaints coming in from neighbors or affected parties. Usually the problem is really bad by the time someone complains, but probably started out as just a minor violation of the ordinances.

For example, I have a friend who lives in the Highlands in Louisville, and she received a violation notice one day from an inspector out on a walking inspection of the entire area--not just to check on one specific house that had been complained about.

The notice gave a certain timeframe to fix two minor things--peeling paint and a downspout that had become disconnected, with a reinspection to take place in 30 days.

Is there some reason why the building commission & commissioner can't break the city up into districts and have an inspector simply do a walking/driving inspection of each district on a rotating basis? That way, no one would feel unfairly singled out, neighbors wouldn't be pitted against neighbors, minor violations could be addressed before they get out of hand, and the public wouldn't be the policing agent--the building commissioner's office would be.

S. LaDuke said...

New Alb Annie,

I totally understand what you're talking about.

In the past and presently, the Building Commissioners Department relies on complaints like these called into the office. The caller does not and I repeat DOES NOT have to give their name and address when they call the complaint in. Someone will ask this information so they can follow up with you on what was found but... if you don't want to give it, again you don't have to.

In the past, attempts to start a program like this have been met with resistance by both the inspectors and the general public. Mayor Overton tried to start a program like this during her time in office and it was met with CONCRETE resistance. I don't understand why we didn't continue to push it through because most of the resistance was comming from landlords and absentee property owners. (Aren't these the ones we all say are the BIGGEST problem?)

Now, I'm gonna drop a HUGE Bombshell here! The previous Building Commissioner, yes that's right, Eddie Hancock tried to start a neighborhood walking program with the inspectors. Now, I'm not one to beat around the bush here so... The inspectors told him they WOULDN'T do it. Boy, I bet that's the first time anyone has heard anything like that isn't it? I can tell you first hand because I was in the meeting where Eddie told the inspectors he wanted them to perform neighborhood inspections when they weren't inspecting building properties. Some days the inspectors would leave at 9:00 in the morning with 2 inspections scheduled for the day and then wouldn't be seen until the next morning so, there should have been plenty of time for this to take place. However, like I said, the inspectors refused to do this.

I do believe this is something that needs to happen and should happen. I do know the City Council has budgeted for a third inspector in the Building Commissioners office. Perhaps a third inspector could be used for something like this. I am only brainstorming here but I would be more than happy to bring this idea up at the next Building Commission meeting. Until then, if you have a complaint call the Building Commissioner or call me at my office and I will be more than happy to relay the complaint to the Building Commissioner at the next Board of Works Meeting.

Steve LaDuke

Brandon W. Smith said...

Just a stab here, but I'm guessing the insurance process is still going on, which is why no work is being done on the Salon.

Ann said...

Steve, I would appreciate it if you could push the idea of an inspector to check for building code violations that aren't the result of called-in complaints, but simply routine enforcement of codes.

I remember Overton's idea about inspections, but I seem to recall that it was targeted specifically at rental properties. I went to one of the meetings she held and there were a lot of angry landlords there. I didn't think much of the rental inspection idea in that it targeted only rental housing and did not address owner-occupied housing.

Perhaps the building commission department needs to be reorganized if the inspectors feel they can pick and choose their work.

What I ran into in the past when I had occasion to make a complaint about a rental property in my neighborhood was complete and total resistance on the part of the building commissioner to do anything (Terry Ginkins was the commish then).

First, the letter I mailed in was ignored, then when I called no one would return calls, and then when I appeared in person, I got various dumb reasons why the department could do nothing. Some of the excuses: we can only make an inspection if the complaint comes from a tenant, we're understaffed, you may be complaining only because you don't like the landlord/tenant--I swear, it was a different reason each time I inquired.

I haven't had occasion to deal with the current department, but I still see the same sort of problem in the city--houses that are in violation that just sit and decay. A city our size needs to have an active inspection process that isn't dependent solely on called-in complaints.

Please let me know what the discussion is when you bring this up at the Commission meeting.

All4Word said...

And, to wrap up my response, I do think a public-spirited landlord could "package the building" in plastic until such time as he or she can restore or demolish. Burned-out hulks aren't a good image.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

Here's an idea:

Mr. Roberts could walk into the office within the next couple of days and announce that regular neighborhood inspections are a requirement for further employment as an inspector with the city.

I'm sure those that refuse could rely on their previous building experience to find the door themselves.

Brandon W. Smith said...

I've been fond of the idea that other cities use of having "absentee" landlords register and pay a fee once or twice a year per unit. Not only does the city now know who they are and how to contact them, but the money collected is used to pay 1 or more code enforcement officers who proactively focus on code violations and rental inspections. I think such a system would work wonders in New Albany, with responsible landlords not having to compete with slumlords.

S. LaDuke said...

I'll bring it up at the next meeting or better yet Tuesday before the BOW meeting I'll talk a little to Paul about it to get his feelings.

You are correct about the previous proposed plan during the Overton Administration concentrating mainly on rental properties but what we have been talking about was covered in that plan also. Most people only talked about the rental properties however.

Steve LaDuke

Richard Rush said...

As has already been speculated, the owner of the building has not taken any action on the building due to delays caused by dealings with the insurance company. I will pass on your concerns to her.