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Former Kmart building declared hazardous building

WORTHINGTON -- The former Kmart building was declared a hazardous building by the city council during its regular meeting Monday night.

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A letter was sent June 24 to the owner of the Northland Mall property outlining the violation of various codes and regulations and ordered the building to be unfit for occupancy.

The letter requested Northland Mall Realty Management, LLC to present a written plan on how it was intended to address the issues. After no response during the 30-day time period, the council took the next step.

The council declared the building to be hazardous and will order the owner to repair or demolish the structure. Failure to comply with the order would allow the city to obtain legal right through the courts to step in and demolish or repair the hazardous building.

The letter, which will be signed by Mayor Alan Oberloh, ordered the owner to complete three conditions. The first was to properly repair all the identified violations outlined in the first letter, or to demolish the subject building. The second was to obtain all the applicable permits to do the work necessary to satisfy this order within 30 days from the date of the letter. The last was that the demolition or repair must be completed within 60 days from the date of the letter.

Council member Diane Graber asked about the attachment of the Kmart building to the rest of the mall structure, and whether that would cause issues.

"That's something that we've been talking about internally," Brad Chapulis, director of community and economic development said. "There are separate roof structures that take care of themselves. There is some carefulness that needs to be taken. At this point in time, it's the responsibility of the owner. If it comes to a point where the city has to take action, we're talking about bringing somebody in with the expertise to advise the city through that process."

Chapulis said if it gets to that point, the cost of that work would be charged back to the owner.

"What you're doing is giving a time frame for which the owner has to take action," Chapulis explained. "If the owner fails to do so, the next step is to file the order with the court. A court hearing would then be established where we would present our case."

Oberloh said the same principles would be adopted if the city officials would have seen these violations in any other commercial building.

"There are serious violations," Oberloh said.

In other business, the council agreed to pay for half of a study related to a new outdoor pool.

The total cost of the study is $7,500. The council unanimously approved $3,750 of the study, with the other half coming from the citizens pushing for the new pool.

Early in the discussion, Oberloh suggested having the group pay the entire amount.

"If the private sector is leading the charge, why can't they contribute the $7,500?" he said. "To me, that shows their buy in."

Council member Ron Wood said he was concerned that by doing this, it would raise the level of expectations.

"That's my fear at this point in time," he said. "We spent 10 years doing the aquatic center and I'm fearful we are going to raise expectations and then we are going to be the bad people."

Graber said it would prove the city's sincere interest in the project.

"It shows sincere interest in helping them get what they need," she said.

City administrator Craig Clark said he talked with the group about the decision to have swimming available year round at the current facility.

"I'd like to see us do this phase 1 analysis," council member Scott Nelson said.

After discussion, Oberloh said he wanted to see at least half coming from the private sector.

"I think we can do this and then push for private funding," Nelson said.

"Would you spend Scott Nelson's $7,500 to do this?" Oberloh asked Nelson. "I spend city money as I spend my own and I wouldn't spend my money on it. Keep that in mind when you authorize $7,500."

"So you're against pools altogether?" Nelson asked Oberloh.

"Absolutely not," Oberloh said. "I'm against spending taxpayers money on this study. We have gone above and beyond... I think the city of Worthington has done its part. I don't know how much more taxpayer dollars we can use."

The taxpayers would have the final say in a new pool, but this would be the first phase of the process.

"I'm sorry if we can't have everything," Oberloh said. "It is what it is. I think we did a very good job for the people who live here with what we put up at the YMCA."

In other business, the council approved $101,100 through the use of hospital impact funds to the Lake Street trail. The cost is more than the original projections, but there was leftover impact funds available from the savings in the ARMER system.

The trail would extend the current trail along Lake Street from near 7th Avenue to the existing walk ending east of May Street.