Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Resident: 'Please help us save Walker Street'

A resident of Walker Street in Mount Auburn wants the City's help in building a retaining wall to save the hillside and preserve home values.

In February 2005, a landslide affected seven Walker Street properties, causing damage to decks and sewer lines and making the hillside very unstable.

After contacting the City, the street's property owners were told that since the landslide was on private property, the City could not -- and would not -- help.

Instead, the City's Department of Buildings & Inspections issued orders to each of the property owners, requiring them to stabilize the hillside, repair the decks, and fix the sewer lines.

"Four of the property owners, myself included, took legal action against the person who we believe caused the landslide," the resident says. "The other property owner...did not join the legal action because of the legal costs involved, and she figured she would just take care of building a wall."

The legal action was taken against Michael Kelley, owner of the properties at , who left the property vacant for many years without shutting off the water.

A deep freeze caused the water main to burst, filling the property and saturating the hillside.

Following a three-and-a-half-year legal battle, Kelley was found at fault for the hillside, and the property owners were awarded $318,000.

According to the resident, Kelley has no money to pay the judgement and did not have insurance coverage for his properties.

Estimates in

Residents of Walker Street have had geotechnical work done in the landslide area and have hired a company to design a retaining wall.

"All of the geotechnical engineers tell us that the wall must be done as one project, and that one single property owner cannot build a wall to fix the hillside," the resident says. "The cost to build the wall from 1835 to 1847 Walker Street, which is the original area of the landslide, is nearly $400,000. The cost of the sewer line repairs is $54,000."

But since 2005, the problem has become much bigger, with damage making its way down to 1825 Walker Street.

"Two of the original property owners have had their properties go into foreclosure due to the very high legal and hillside repair cost, and the fact that the appraised value of their homes is now $ZERO, since the repair costs are so high," the resident says, adding that he may have to consider foreclosure as well if the problem isn't addressed.

The resident hopes that the City will build the wall, then assess each property owner for their portion of the wall's cost.

So far, they have held a meeting with the City solicitor and members of Councilman Chris Bortz's office.

"If the City is unable to help, I fear that Walker Street will continue to have more and more foreclosures, due to the City's orders to repair the hillside," he says.


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