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Your Stories: South Wedge property target of $20,000 in code violations

Updated: Wednesday, July 10 2013, 03:38 PM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. --- Folks on Hamilton Street tell 13WHAM News that they're fed up with the deteriorating condition of one property and they can't understand why it's been allowed to get so bad over so many years.

This week a Rochester City Hall Spokesman informed 13WHAM News that the city is taking serious action and that a demolition order has been secured.  After levying more than $20,000 in code violation fines the city is prepared to move forward with the demolition process if the owner does not come into compliance soon.

The property stands in stark contrast to many others on Hamilton Street in the South Wedge, a neighborhood that’s experienced a significant turnaround over the last decade. 

"Oh yeah, a lot of really good things have been sprouting up, up and down South Avenue businesses and people are trying to take care of their houses and make things a little nicer," Jim Fricon a Hamilton Street resident said.

But the ire of neighbors is focused on 293 Hamilton Street.  Richard Knowlton bought the property in 1993 and most neighbors say they’ve seen no noticeable upgrades to the property over the last two decades. 

“It just gets worse and worse and this is what our tenants, this is their view out their living room window this is what they get to look at,” Kevin Henry who owns and maintains the property next door to 293 said.  “I feel bad for our neighbors who live here and they're fixing up their properties and this is their view and it's pretty unsightly."

Complaints about a property's appearance are one thing but with broken windows and a crumbling exterior, neighbor’s feel they have a genuine public safety concerns.

"The obvious is that things fall off the house and hurt people,” Kitty Henry said.  “Somebody might break in, people who you don't want in your neighborhood (sic) be there in the house and you certainly don't want them near your tenants or yourself."

“The chimney's crumbling, the windows," Fricon added. "We got open windows now, there are like squirrels crawling in it."

The city spokesman said asbestos abatement has been put out to bid on the property and that process should be completed within the next sixty days.  After that the city could move forward with the demolition process.  Some neighbors feel that needs to happen.

"I would just like some sort of resolution,” Fricon said.  “Either you fix it up or you knock it down one or the two but do something with it."

The Property Owner Responds

To the credit of Richard Knowlton, he wasted no time fielding 13WHAM News’ phone call and meeting our news crew at his property to explain his side of this story.  Also to his credit, of the more than $20,000 in code violation fines he’s been assessed a city spokesman said he’s paid all of them but the most recent one issued on May 31st.

When he showed up at the home Knowlton he immediately noticed more damage to the property, something he’s been complaining about for some time now.

"It appears that somebody has been breaking into the house," Knowlton said.  "I just noticed that the window is gone, now I was here about a week ago and I noticed that the door had been battered in and the door was secured."

Knowlton said thousands of dollars worth of plumbing upgrades he made were stolen from his property earlier this year.  He also said that building supplies, windows, and siding has also gone missing.  In light of the recent complaints from neighbors Knowlton felt compelled to point out what he sees as another issue with this property.

"I don't know who is taking this stuff out and nobody seems to see anything but the neighborhood is concerned because it's an eyesore?” Knowlton asked.  “You know I just don't understand this, nobody sees anything but yet stuff is going on."

Knowlton said that on top of having to pay fines he also saw his assessment increase from $10,000 because it was a rehab property to $50,000 during the last tax cycle.  When asked he said his property’s condition is not something he’s proud of.

“No, I can see why people would be upset in the condition the house is in but you know when you're caught between a rock and a hard place what are you supposed to do?" Knowlton responded.  "The money that I have set aside to rehab the house they keep taking it for fines."

Knowlton, who owns two other properties in the city, said he is hoping to work with the city to make the necessary repairs.

"I am trying, this is a hardship case here and it seems like every time I get a chance to get going on this something drags me down again,” Knowlton said.

Your Stories: South Wedge property target of $20,000 in code violations

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