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Salem orders demolition of nuisance property

SALEM — The city board of zoning appeals ordered the demolition of a nuisance property at 1240 E. Third St. during a meeting Tuesday.

The building owner, Park Place Investments LLC, and their local authorized representatives Bruce and Lucille Riehl, both of Leetonia, were given separate remediation orders from the city’s fire, housing and health departments which they failed to meet, necessitating an order of demolition as the property presents a significant and ongoing public health and safety risk.

The property investigations flagged 19 separate major health and safety issues in need of immediate remediation and all three city departments declared the property unfit for human habitation.

Among the most notable issues flagged in the reports were sections of floor and ceiling falling in, trash piled so high if there was a fire it would be impossible to get through the house or to reach any windows to escape. Also noted was the presence of approximately 4 feet of backed up sewage in the basement and ongoing issues of vagrants and squatters entering the residence due to it being unsecured.

A report by Director of Housing/City Housing Inspector Sal Salvino noted the sewage alone serves as a potential exposure vector and breeding ground for many varieties of viruses and bacteria, and that it served as a potential “breeding ground for drug and other activities.”

Board member Robin Falk said that such a massive pool of stagnant water and sewage could serve as a breeding ground for hundreds to thousands of mosquitos, which would themselves become a new infection vector for viruses and bacteria within.

Salvino’s report also noted that the volume of garbage and junk within the residence was so great that it posed a risk not only for fire to fully destroy the structure, but to cause encroachment fire that could damage surrounding houses, and that the door has been painted with a large red “X” by the fire department.

City Health District Environmental Health Director Alan Masters previously said the “X” is a universal fire code symbol indicating the state of the building presents such a severe health risk that in the event of a fire the building is to be allowed to burn down, and no firefighter is to enter the building unless they know for certain that there is someone inside that requires rescue, and that firefighters would instead protect any adjacent houses and properties from the blaze.

The demolition will include the primary structure as well as a secondary structure on the property, and is to be at the expense of the property owner and begin as soon as possible. Salvino said he hoped to secure the payment from the property owners before demolition begins, and that he would be reaching out to the owners via email.

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