4 Easy Steps to Demolition
They may not be legal. But, they send a message!
Not a city. Not a town. Not a village. There is not one without an unsightly, abandoned, dangerous to the community, potentially drug haven structure, home, or trailer which does not need demolished. There is one more reason to demolish these structures: They invite adventuresome children who want to explore. I was one of these adventurists. An old house can become a fascinating cave, a club house, an old mine, or a foreign country full of mystery and adventure, and young minds seldom realize the dangers within, around the corner, or underneath.
That being said, I want to congratulate my city leaders of Clarksburg, West Virginia for adopting an aggressive program to rid our community of the unsightly and dangerous (structures). It is a long and slow process, but they are making progress. If your area does not have such a program, I would encourage you to contact your elected officials and establish your own ‘Steps to Demolition.’
However, I do not completely understand how our program works. I am hoping one or more of my city officials would explain how a structure makes the ‘demolish’ list? The cost? Where does the money for demolition come from? And finally, what happens to the property once the structure is cleared? Meanwhile, I have devised my own plan.
I know there are many legal mountains and valleys which need conquering before a structure is demolished, but this is how I feel the process should work. Note: I am fully aware that many of my suggestions are not only illegal, borderline immoral, and perhaps a little ‘cold-hearted,’ but I am tired of seeing so much dilapidation and danger around every corner. Owners must be held accountable!
As you read my suggestions, as noted before, many are illegal but, remember, “What is illegal today could become a legal norm tomorrow.”
Step 1: If the structure is abandoned and classified as unsafe, unsightly, and/or a danger to the community, it is added to “The D List” – demolition.
Step 2: The property owner is given two choices: Improve to specifications OR demolish and clear the site. Time frame would vary according to the scope of the project. And, the rules apply across the board: politics aside, everyone is treated equally, regardless of their financial or political situation.
Step 3: If Step 2 is not met, officials would order and pay for the demolition and clearing. The property owner would be billed and given a reasonable time to pay the city.
Step 4: If the property owner is unable to pay, the city takes possession of the property and goes to court to recoup payment in one or more of the following ways: seizure of personal property; attach wages, savings accounts, checking accounts; seizure of business(es); if necessary, cut off government assistance. Take a lesson directly from the IRS. The city is now in a ‘win-win.’ They can sell the property and recoup demolition costs…the easy way or the hard way.
Yes, many stipulations and conditions in my “4 Easy Steps to Demolition” may be illegal and a bit ‘cold-hearted’ but, it definitely sends a message: “Keep your property up to accepted community standards or sell it to someone who will or you may lose that property and so much more.” And, I do remember when illegal became legal.
Another upside with my plan: It would surely keep the lawyers working overtime.
And now, let’s go on a mystery tour of some properties I came across over the weekend. Some may already be targeted by my city government. If not, these will surely make my ‘4-Step Demo List.’ . Note: all of these are within the Clarksburg city limits.
This home caught fire almost year ago. The smoke smell still lingers.
This is on the line between my city and a neighboring community. I usually see chickens running in the yard and trash cans overflowing with beer cans. It may be occupied, but it should not.
Only two blocks from the center of town. My wife said, "Years ago, this was a beautiful home. The elderly lady who lived here always had red geraniums on the steps. I can still see her sweeping the porch every morning. Everything was immaculate."
This car wash, only half is pictured, has been out of operation for years, and possibly a decade or two.
This may still be occupied…but again, it should not! It is begging to be vandalized or burglarized.
Partially burned and bordered up. I hope the electric meter was removed. The lines are still connected.
This was once some type of manufacturing facility. Now, it probably houses an occasional homeless person(s), provides shelter and opportunity to the druggies, and a home for feral cats, bats, and rats.
The next two pictures were taken within the neighborhood where I grew up, went to elementary school, and spent many hours on the playground.
And lastly, the Waldo Hotel, located in the center of Clarksburg. Once, this was a West Virginia showplace. My city has been battling the owners for years. What a (once) grand hotel. Now, it is just sad. Yes, it could be saved. However, I do not see any investor(s) willing to commit $22m-plus on this project. I have been back in Clarksburg for 14 years and it continues to decline.
As I took these pictures, I found myself becoming increasingly sad and reflective. When I looked at each structure, I could see a once proud and special place, full of love and pride. And now, I asked myself, "Why did this happen?"
But, it did happen. Now, they must be removed, using the most efficient means possible. Remember, being illegal does not mean it is wrong!
Until another day.
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On the whole, these essays encourage us to nurture our better selves—and who among us doesn’t need an occasional nudge toward greater kindness, tolerance, and appreciation of the things that really matter in life?