CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland failed to provide proper notice to two Ohio business owners before it demolished their properties, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio Monday.
The lawsuit states the City of Cleveland “never posted notice” before it permitted crews to demolish the properties at 4400 Warner Road and 7410 Linwood Avenue last year.
David Bond, the owner of the Warner Road property, said a neighbor notified him an excavator was parked on the property's back porch last August.
Bond, who lives nearby, said he returned to the property the following morning and found a demolition crew preparing to tear it down.
"I said, 'Can you just wait?'," Bond said.
Bond said a worker from the demolition company, Laster LLC, refused and told him he had a permit from the City of Cleveland.
"He proceeded and knocked down this building right in front of me," he said. "I just sat there, like flabbergasted. What can I do? Big excavator. Boom! There goes my building."
Lush Designs LLC, which owns the Linwood Ave. property, alleges its owner found the building "entirely demolished" when she went to inspect the property last year.
Bond said the City of Cleveland failed to provide notice it planned to demolish the property, as required by state law and a city ordinance.
"Nobody told me anything," he said.
Lush Design LLC also alleges it received 'no notice' of any problems with the Linwood Ave. property.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the property owners by Justin Stevenson of Bower Stevenson, states, "On its purchase of the Linwood Property, Lush Designs even searched the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer’s website, inquired with the City of Cleveland Building and Housing Department to locate any such potential issues, and found no such issues from either source.”
News 5 reached out to the City of Cleveland. Spokesperson Nancy Kelsey said the city is not scheduling in-person interviews due to the pandemic.
Kelsey sent us the following statement:
"We cannot comment on pending litigation and the specifics of this case at this time. However, our process for demolition includes notification for a new property owner. The City of Cleveland Department of Building & Housing sends the new owner a copy of the condemnation and demolition order. The new owner has 30 days to pull permits or file a BBS (Board of Building Standards) appeal, before the demolition can proceed."
News 5 also reached out to Laster LLC. An employee, who identified himself as Ronald, said the City of Cleveland instructed him to proceed with the demolition, despite Bond's pleas for him to stop. Ronald declined to provide his last name.
The lawsuit also names the Cuyahoga Land Bank, which Bond bought the Warner Rd. property from in March 2018, and Baumann Enterprises Inc, which demolished the Linwood Ave. property.
'What do I do now?'
Bond planned to transform the Warner Rd. building into the headquarters for his company, First Floor Living LLC, which creates homes for the elderly and disabled.
Bond said he is from Australia and immigrated to the U.S. in 1990. Since then, he has lived in California before relocating to Cleveland with his wife a few years ago.
"I want to invest in this area," Bond said. "We love the City of Cleveland. We love where we live and we wanted to bring something good to the neighborhood."
However, he said it's 'scary' to think about buying another property in Cleveland.
"This has put a big nail in that coffin," he said. "It definitely makes me question why I'm putting so much time and and effort and money into something... especially if I'm thinking,'Hey, tomorrow, they could knock down my building'."
"What do I do now?" Bond said. "It's really devastating for us."
The lawsuit asks the city to pay each owner at least $250,000, interest, additional fees and attorney fees.