Condemned building lives on ... for nowCity officials had hoped that last week’s court decision related to a condemned commercial property in New Richmond meant the end of a long legal battle.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
City officials had hoped that last week’s court decision related to a condemned commercial property in New Richmond meant the end of a long legal battle.
But the building’s owner, Vernon Borst, vows to keep battling until all his legal options are exhausted.
In a decision filed Oct. 23, the District III Court of Appeals sided with St. Croix County Judge Howard Cameron in the matter. Cameron previously ruled that Borst and his wife, Carolyn, failed to meet statutory deadlines for appealing a raze order issued by the City of New Richmond.
The ruling noted that the building owner is given 30 days to pursue legal action in such a matter, but the Borsts didn’t seek a restraining order to stop demolition until 557 days after the original raze order.
Despite the setback, Vernon Borst said he will request that the Appeals Court reconsider their decision. If that does not bring a satisfactory result, Borst said he would take the matter to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
“I’m still not done,” he said. “I’m not going to kid anybody – it’s hard to beat city hall. But I’m not someone who will sit down and get kicked in the teeth either.”
City officials, however, are hoping for a speedier conclusion to the matter.
City Attorney Ron Siler said a letter will be sent to the Borsts providing them notice to remove personal property from the building within the coming weeks. The city will then contract with a company to demolish the structure, and then charge the cost of the project back to the couple.
New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne said he hoped that the legal battle was near an end.
“The city has tried working with him (Borst) for many years on resolving the condition of his building,” Horne said. “Hopefully now we can all move forward.”
City Administrator Mike Darrow said the longer the condemnation battle keeps going, the more it costs city taxpayers and the Borsts.
“Nobody wins if this keeps going,” Darrow said. “We’re hoping, for everyone’s sake, that this gets resolved.”
Darrow said the neighbors of the property “have been beyond patient” as the legal battle has continued for years. He said property values of nearby homes and businesses have been negatively impacted by the blighted property and it’s time the structure comes down.
“We really hope there is cooperation to move forward,” he said.
Darrow said the building will be demolished the day after the Borsts’ legal avenues come to an end.
The Borst property saga dates back to 2001, two years after the rural Somerset couple purchased the property for $79,000. Borst was issued several citations in 2001 for code violations related to the building.
The city started putting more pressure on Borst to repair his building and clean up the exterior yard beginning in April 2006.
In September of that year, Borst was mailed a condemnation letter. City officials claimed the building was in poor condition and was not fit for human habitation, even though apartments in the structure were occupied.
The situation led to a hearing before the New Richmond Board of Appeals on Nov. 27, 2006. Borst failed to attend the meeting, due to apparent confusion about the date of the hearing. At that hearing, the board voted to order the building’s demolition by Jan. 24, 2007.
After the scheduling snafu was uncovered, a new condemnation hearing was set for Dec. 11, 2006.
Borst was given 60 days to come up with a plan for repairing and improving the property. The deadline came and went and the Board of Appeals upheld the order to raze.
A year later, Borst was in St. Croix County Court to argue his case against the city. He said his wife, Carolyn, is co-owner of the building and never received separate notice of the previous Board of Appeals hearing.
When the raze order was upheld, Borst took the matter to the District III Court of Appeals. In 2009, the Appeals Court agreed that Carolyn Borst should have been sent a notice of any official proceedings.
The city remained undeterred, restarting the process for condemnation and issuing a raze order. A final raze order was issued in June of 2011 and a deadline was set for the building’s demolition.
After that happened, the Borsts again appealed to the Appeal Court, leading to last week’s decision.