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Eldred supervisors discuss dilapidated house

Eldred Township supervisors mulled over their options regarding a dilapidated house and the accompanying structures on the property on Fiddletown Road.

It’s been nearly 60 days since the township had the house declared a dangerous structure and ordered it to be torn down, but it still stands.

Michael Gaul, the township’s solicitor, said the property owner, Amy Yaple of Yaple Properties LLC, emailed him and asked who she should contact in the township to follow up on the matter. He emailed her back with the name of a contact in his firm, but that man said she has yet to contact him.

Gaul told the supervisors that they can take action to have the township remove the building or ask the zoning officer to file citations for failure to comply.

Supervisor Donna Mikol asked if there is a grant for municipalities to take down blighted properties.

Gaul said the problem is that it is privately owned, but the fact that she is in violation of township ordinance may make a difference. He’s going to look into that for more information.

The house and its accompanying store were built in the 1800s. When the house was destroyed by fire in 2019, the insurance policy had lapsed, so there were no funds to fix it or pay to demolish it. The estimated cost to tear it down was $50,000.

“That’s a big ask of the township to take general fund money out to take it down. It’s not a budgeted amount,” Gaul said. “We don’t want the property.”

To complicate matters, there is at least one underground storage tank for gas for the old general store. Yaple purchased the property, which contained the house, the former W.W. Smiley Meats and Groceries store and other buildings, in 2007 for $299,900.

“On the other side of the store, there’s a garage that’s falling apart, right on the brink of somebody’s house down below,” said Supervisor Joann Bush.

She asked Gaul if the township needs to pursue getting the garage declared a dangerous structure as well. He said that they should consider doing that.

Bush said the homeowner “hasn’t put a complaint in, but if you look at it, it’s so obvious.”

Supervisors’ Chairman Gary Hoffman said, “His house isn’t in peril, but the garage that is dilapidated could fall on his roof.”

Gaul said the township could take the matter to court. The courts could order her to have it torn down or sell it. He said he knows she has an emotional attachment to the property, but it’s beyond her ability to handle it at this point.

Ann Velopolcek, the township secretary, said she doesn’t think Yaple has the money to pay to tear down the house and selling it isn’t likely.

“It won’t meet any building codes; if those buildings come down, you won’t be able to put another building on there,” she said.

Given the proximity to the road and small size and shape of the lot, there isn’t enough room on the property to build anything else once it is torn down.

If someone bought it, it would cost them more than the land is worth to tear down the structures and have gas tanks removed, she said.

The supervisors decided to have the zoning enforcement officer give her citations for not complying with the order.

This house on Fiddletown Road in Kunkletown was declared a dangerous structure in April and ordered to be removed. Almost 60 days later, it still stands. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO