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City: Destroyed house must be demolished

The house located on Hillcrest Drive in Woodbury was extensively damaged by fire in February. The city has ordered the owner to remove the structure. (Riham Feshir/Woodbury Bulletin)

A Woodbury residence that was severely destroyed by a fire in February is now a public safety issue and a hazardous building that must go, city leaders decided Wednesday.

But Woodbury City Council member Amy Scoggins said she doesn't think it should be the city's responsibility to take care of the demolition process.

The house, located at 1198 Hillcrest Drive, was extensively damaged by a fire on Feb. 6. It was an investment property being remodeled with no original electrical, plumbing and heating systems. All drywall was removed, exposing the wood framing and making the house vulnerable to fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to public safety officials.

Woodbury's Chief Building Official Ron Glubka told council members Wednesday that the house is now in foreclosure and there continues to be uncertainty of whether the owner or mortgage holder will take care of the demolition process in a timely fashion.

The owner, Dan Koenig, initially gave the city the OK to clean up the lot because he didn't have the resources to do so in the 30-day period the city required, and the insurance company's investigation wasn't complete.

The mortgage holder, Solo Property, told Glubka earlier this month it would begin the foreclosure process on Koenig's property, clean it up and sell it off to recuperate some of the funds as it works through the insurance claim.

Glubka said both parties reversed their positions on Wednesday -- the owner now says he'll remove the building this week, while the mortgage company said it was having difficulty with the foreclosure process and would not be able to remove the structure.

But the city will now give Koenig the opportunity to remove the building as he promised, which is the most feasible option, Glubka said.

Council members ultimately approved a resolution brought by Glubka ordering demolition of the property within 20 days to be compliant with state statutes. If the lot isn't cleaned up by then, further court action will be taken.

"If we didn't take action, the building remains like this," Glubka said, adding that soon with warmer temperatures creeping up on the neighborhood, the building will start to smell and what's left of the property may collapse at any time. "It's in a pretty hazardous condition."

Council member Christopher Burns asked when the city would be paid if it ends up taking on the demolition process.

According to a contractor who's dealing with Koenig, removing the house will cost more than $11,000. If the city ends up taking on the job, additional administrative fees would be added and the homeowner would be assessed in that case.

Although this is a rare situation for City Council to face, Scoggins said she was uncomfortable approving the order to remove the property.

"I don't know if it's opening up a can of worms," she said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.