The City cancelled its Housing Commission meeting Monday evening after the owner of a house the city had condemned and wanted to raze put the property up for sale.
Leroy Wanzell said he is selling the five-acre property at 1310 East End Avenue. He is currently getting bids to raze the single-story house that occupies one small corner of the property.
The house, which was zoned R-1, legal non-conforming, first caught the attention of city officials in 2012 when homeless people were discovered living in the vacant structure. In 2015, officials with the city’s codes department ordered Wanzell to clean up the property. According to city officials, Wanzell did not comply with the order and the city boarded up the house and placed a $2,000 lien on the property for the work.
During a November housing commission meeting, Kenny Custer, the city’s Director of Community Services, testified before the commissioners that Wanzell had pulled a building permit in August 2015, but no work on renovations ever began. The building permit expired in 180 days, officials said.
In March of 2016, the city gave notice to Wanzell that it would raze the house due to neglect. Wanzell appealed the order to the East Ridge Housing Commission.
Housing Commission Chairman Eddie Phillips, during past board meetings relating to the house, pushed for the city to move forward with the demolition of the house and placing a lean on the property to pay for the work. Housing commission member Jim Winters said he believed the structure of the house was sound and that it should not be destroyed.
Complicating the issue was the fact that the house sits in a flood prone area. City officials said if the structure were to remain it must be elevated some seven feet above the flood plain to conform to FEMA guidelines. In addition, because the house had been unoccupied for an extended period of time, it lost its legal non-conforming status of R-1 and the property would officially revert to commercial zoning.
In a chance encounter with this reporter on Monday afternoon in City Hall, Wanzell said his troubles with the property began back in 2008, when a developer wanted to turn the area into a water park. That project quickly fell apart, but not before the city had an official groundbreaking ceremony. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, David Mayes, the developer of the so-called “Splash Valley,” became a fugitive. Mayes was wanted for writing a $34,000 check that was worthless.
Wanzell said he once owned much of the property on the north side of Ringgold Road between Spring Creek and East End Avenue. Years ago the property was used as a business to sell mobile homes. In recent years a Dollar General was built in the middle of the block.
Wanzell said he also has had health issues in recent years that hampered his efforts to improve the property.