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Officials: Burned Lake Street home not a safety hazard

News Photo by Julie Riddle The tip of a house on West Lake Avenue shows damage from a fire that destroyed the home in December 2018.

ALPENA — A home left standing more than two years after a fire on Alpena’s north side is not a safety hazard, according to city officials.

The two-story home on West Lake Street burned the day after Christmas, 2018, when the upper story caught fire in the early hours of the morning.

All residents and pets escaped unharmed.

The home, though badly damaged, is structurally sound, and the city has allowed the homeowner time to be in a position to have it demolished, according to Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora.

Some Alpena residents recently appealed to city leaders to take action when a home that burned on Washington Avenue in Alpena in May was left standing for more than nine months.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Alpena resident Victor Bays points to the remains of a fire that destroyed a home on West Lake Street in Alpena more than two years ago. The building is structurally sound and not a safety hazard, according to city officials.

The Washington Avenue fire alerted city leaders to the necessity of an ordinance to address and enforce the removal of potentially unsafe buildings — something the city has never needed before, Waligora said.

The ordinance, currently being crafted by a committee, should be finalized by the end of 2021, Alpena Planning & Development Director Andrea Kares told The News last month.

The Washington Avenue house is expected to come down in spring after its demolition was stalled by the discovery of asbestos in the building in late February, according to Waligora.

According to online records of the City of Alpena Assessor’s Office, city officials checked on the Lake Street home several times in 2019 and again in August 2020. Notes in the inspection log indicate the home’s demolition was on hold while the homeowner, Sharron Janssen, worked on finding a way to pay for it.

The cost of removing a burned property falls on the homeowner. Janssen said on Tuesday that she has come up with funds for the demolition, which she has been told by a contractor will happen in spring.

The demolition was slated for late summer, but slowed by COVID restrictions, according to Janssen.

Had inspections revealed structural damage that made the house unsafe, the city could potentially have ordered the house torn down immediately, with the cost added to the homeowner’s taxes, Waligora said.

Alpena resident Victor Bays, who lives down the block from the burned home on Lake Street, said he understands the financial burden and technical complications of tearing down a building.

Still, Bays said, he worries that a burned house left standing may make residents of the neighborhood less likely to care for their own homes, to the detriment of the neighborhood.

While nobody has made a formal complaint to the city about the Lake Street property, Waligora said he understands neighbors’ desire to not live next to a burned home.

He encourages residents with concerns about their neighborhoods to contact the Building Department at City Hall, or even to reach out to him.

“People can call and ask, ‘Hey, what’s the deal?'” Waligora said. “If I don’t know the answer, then I usually either find out or I point them in the right direction.”

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