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Looks Are Deceiving

By Staff | Mar 4, 2009

This home owned by Neva Cochran and five unknown heirs in Reader is at the center of a lawsuit with the goal of demolishing the building. The process, says Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught, would be made easier if the county had a dilapidated building ordinance. (Photo by Amy Witschey)

While the Cochran home in Reader may look like it could be taken down with a simple huff or puff from the Big Bad Wolf, it isn’t quite that easy.

The building in Reader is literally falling down, but no one can seem to have it actually taken down to eliminate an eyesore and hazard in the community.

Brenda Duke appeared before the Wetzel County Commission Feb. 25 to check on the status of the building that is located close to her home.

“It’s more dangerous now than it ever has been,” she told the commissioners. Recent high winds blew glass and shingles all over the neighborhood. Duke provided photos of that debris.

She said she wasn’t sure of the status of the court case concerning the matter. “All I know is that we really need some action from somebody,” said Duke.

Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught said he had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the county commission under the county’s nuisance ordinance and that is progressing.

The court appointed David White as the guardian ad litem for the only known heir, Neva Cochran, who is living in a nursing home and incompetent. She is the only one of five heirs to the property known to be living.

The next step is for White to file an answer to the suit and then Haught said the case will hopefully forward quickly.

“One of the concerns is the lack of dilapidated building ordinance,” said the prosecutor. The suit had to be filed under a nuisance ordinance, but it wasn’t created for the purpose of tearing down dilapidated buildings.

“We’re left with this poor process for having the building torn down. A more expeditious way would be to have a dilapidated building ordinance,” he said.

Such an ordinance has been provided by Haught to the commission, something Commissioner Bob Gorby said the body may act on after March.

“I know passing an ordinance won’t be a very popular piece of legislation in Wetzel County,” said Commission President Don Mason.

He said it has been discussed over the past four or five years. “It’s a shame that we have to pass an ordinance to make people clean up their property,” said Mason.

If the county has an ordinance they will have to have a mechanism for inspection and enforcement, noted Haught.

“We’re going to have to go through this court process at this time to have this building torn down,” said Haught.

“I am going to get the building torn down, but it would have been much easier if we had a dilapidated building ordinance.”