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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Burned building's site ordered filled by judge

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A big hole in downtown where a building burned last year should be filled in by tonight, improving the downtown streetscape for visiting crowds starting this weekend, a spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday.

Toledo Municipal Housing Court Judge C. Allen McConnell yesterday ordered the owner of 114 North Ontario St. to have the hole filled to sidewalk level, spokesman Brian Schwartz said.

Property owner Keith Brown said he agrees with the judge's order and will comply.

"We are planning on complying with that. As long as our contractors are able to get it done, we'll get it done," Mr. Brown said.

The mayor came under criticism earlier this week from four city councilmen who said the eyesore in the heavily traveled block was being neglected while the city was spending $38,340 under an emergency waiver of normal bidding procedures to illuminate trees on Jackson Street, blocks away from Fifth Third Field.

The mayor defended the new lighting, saying Toledo will be the focus of national sports attention next week, between the Triple-A All-Star Game and the Jamie Farr Classic LPGA golf tournament at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania. "Our city needs to look its best," he said

And the mayor said the city's law department has been "dogged" in its pursuit of Mr. Brown. He said the ruling assures the space will be filled in at Mr. Brown's expense, not the city's.

"The taxpayers of Toledo are going to be made whole here, and we are abating a nuisance property in downtown," the mayor said.

The order was issued yesterday as part of a verdict finding Mr. Brown guilty of failure to maintain property.

Mr. Brown said he is still trying to have the property developed.

The structure, known as the Arbuckle Building, burned Sept. 29. It was built in 1885 and had been vacant for at least 15 years when Mr. Brown acquired it in 2001.

City Councilman Frank Szollosi said he was glad to hear of the progress, but he questioned whether the in-fill could be done in one day. He said the administration should still have a fence erected today for safety reasons and bill Mr. Brown for the cost.

"I'm happy to see action. I just wish it hadn't taken a public disagreement to make it happen," Mr. Szollosi said.

Mr. Schwartz said the nuisance case has been under way for months and just happened to result in a ruling yesterday.

He said if the hole is filled, a fence wouldn't be needed.

The city filed suit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in April to recoup the cost of demolition and to order the property owner to have the pit backfilled.

Judge McConnell set a date of next Friday for a hearing to monitor Mr. Brown's compliance with his order.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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