Two weeks to get out, clean up

By Jane Beathard

June 27, 2014

Landlord Bill Shaw Jr., has two weeks to remove clothing, hot plates, sleeping bags, trash — as well as three occupants — from condemned buildings at 249 W. High St. in London, following a hearing in Madison County Common Pleas Court on Friday.

Judge Eamon Costello granted a request by the county health district, forcing Shaw to remove people and their possessions from a former office building and 16-unit apartment complex on property between High Street and Stump Lane.

Costello also ordered both buildings secured to prevent further vandalism. He said repair efforts by Shaw may continue during daylight hours, or at night with permission of health department officials. Department sanitarians may also inspect the buildings for compliance at any time.

Friday’s ruling was the latest salvo in years of battles over the property.

Columbus developer John Gibboney built the former Patrick Madison Apartments and county human services headquarters in the 1970s. Over the years, both fell into disrepair along with a house at 239 W. High St. also owned by Gibboney.

All were condemned by the health department in October after inspectors found portions of the structures infested with bugs and without public utilities. On Friday, health commissioner Mary Ann Webb displayed a binder of complaints and inspection reports that led to October’s order. The binder was at least 6 inches thick.

Shaw bought the property in April, promising to refurbish all three buildings. He said health department procedures involving the condemnation were improper.

The vacant house at 239 W. High St., judged a blighted property, was demolished in May, despite protests by Shaw.

During a May 23 inspection of the two remaining buildings, Webb and London police officers found furniture, bedding, clothing and food present in two apartment units. They found similar items in the former office building, court documents said.

Indications the buildings were inhabited violated an April 23 order prohibiting anyone from living on the property.

Brian and Alice Stafford testified Friday they “stay” in an apartment while working to clean and remodel the buildings, but do not “live” at the address. They also provide security.

Mr. Shaw’s brother also stays on the property, Mr. Stafford said.

Shaw testified he allows the Staffords to stay overnight because city police failed to protect his property from vandals.

Mrs. Stafford said she cooks on a grill and hot plate to avoid the cost of eating out. A TV provides entertainment while she cleans.

Shaw testified renovation work slowed because city officials denied water service to the buildings.

Prosecutor Steve Pronai, who represents Webb, said unpaid utility bills led to the shut-off.

Costello refused to order water service reinstated on Friday, saying he has no authority in the matter.

London Safety-Services Director Steve Hume said Shaw must repair numerous leaks before city water flows to the buildings.

Jane Beathard can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1616 or via Twitter @JaneBeathard.