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Preventing Future Disaster
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) A fire in an abandoned flood home on May 17th had Cedar Rapids residents asking the city why it didnt do more to remove an eyesore and potential hazard. Embers from the fire landed nearly two blocks away, staring small flames on other homes.
The city says there are plenty of properties, all around the city, that are neglected or abandoned. Just like neighbors saw during the fire, that means people who live nearby are flirting with disaster.
Brandon Hansen didnt like the abandoned home that sat down the street long before it burned to the ground this weekend. He says abandoned homes invite criminal activity or even just homeless people looking for shelter.
"These people are trespassing, you know, they could throw a cigarette butt down and 'bam,' this is the end result, said Hansen.
Kevin Ciabatti is the Cedar Rapids Director of Building Services. He says the city was working with the owners to take care of the property. He believes they were in the process of getting a demolition permit to knock the building down, before the fire did the job for them.
"Now we have a lot more damage to the neighborhood, and obviously a lot worse of an eyesore, said Hansen.
Ciabatti says the city has its eye on around 200 properties like this one.
"The process by which we do right now is we identify them if we have violations and proceed down the path of a nuisance process, said Ciabatti.
That process can be long, and involve court battles which only make everything take even longer. But Cedar Rapids is starting to explore a committee that would streamline the process to take care of the abandoned buildings.
"One of the goals of that group is to create a situation where we might have an ordinance in place that will force owners to give us a plan of action, said Ciabatti.
If they dont comply with that plan, the ordinance would let the city step in much quicker. He says the new committee is a way to make sure owners get their due process but in a way that cuts down on the inconvenience for everyone else.
"These are owners that need to take responsibility for their properties and we want to make sure we have ordinances in place to make them accountable for that, said Ciabatti.
Ciabatti says its still too early to have any ordinances even drafted, but the neighbors say starting a conversation like this one is a step in the right direction.