AMHERST, Ohio — Amherst neighbors are demanding action from the city after what they say has been almost a decade of complaints about the sight, smell and potential health risks of one house on their block.
“This hasn’t just started,” said James Todhunter, who’s lived on Jackson Street for almost 60 years.
From his front porch, Todhunter pointed out the condition of the house next door, which he said has been empty for several years and is becoming an increasingly concerning public nuisance.
“It is filled up. Stuff is scattered all over. When you go in the back door – it’s been open for two years – the floor is all rotted out,” he said.
One of the worst parts Todhunter and others describe is the odor coming from the home. He believes its origin is from dead animals, rodents, rot, and mold inside.
“Believe me, it smells bad in the summertime,” he said, adding that he first alerted the mayor and city council members to the problem in 2016 after other neighbors had already been complaining for several years.
During the March 14 Amherst City Council meeting, neighbors and city leaders discussed the property for more than 30 minutes.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t bring the smell that comes from this house when the weather starts to get warmer,” said neighbor Susan Conkle before she and others presented a slideshow of photos.
Another neighbor, Linda Turley, a former Clerk of Council, cited a number of city ordinances the house could be violating. She included details about unmowed grass, vehicles with expired tags, litter, waste and garage outside, as well as a potential hoarding situation inside.
“That house is a fire hazard. If it ever catches fire, both of you guys on either side, you’re going to have problems,” Turley said.
The mayor and several city council members said they’ve received complaints from constituents.
“They were telling me about the situation, but actually seeing it in person from the outside I was quite surprised,” said Councilman-at-large Martin Herberling.
Mayor Mike Castilow said, “This is honestly a constantly revolving door dealing with this property and one or two others.”
The Lorain County Board of Health sent News 5 several complaints filed by neighbors about garbage, hoarding, and air quality. Inspectors sent their findings to the city and told the complainants they did not have jurisdiction.
City leaders said they have cited the property owner for ordinance violations. Some of the issues were handled and fines were paid. Shortly before a public auction, the property owner paid off nearly $21,000 in delinquent taxes.
During the recent city council meeting, the city law director explained the decision to declare the property a public nuisance or order demolition rests with the courts.
“There has to be a public safety, public hazard constitution. And actually, common law really protects the owner’s individual rights to property,” Law Director Tony Pecora said.
Neighbors point to their photos and years of documented complaints as a mountain of evidence.
“It’s a serious situation,” Todhunter said.
Conkle said, “We implore the city to please take this seriously. Drive by the house, come look around, pull in my driveway. You really have to see it. It’s awful, it’s horrible and it’s sad to have this in the city of Amherst.”
News 5 reached out to the property owner for this story. He declined to make any comments on camera but said he accepts full responsibility for the condition of the property. He added that he’s ordered a dumpster for delivery this Friday and plans to begin cleaning out the house this weekend.