LOCKPORT – A house that’s been abandoned for at least five years may be demolished by the Town of Lockport after complaints by a neighbor that the town violated its own policy by not mowing the grass.
Three years ago, Dorchester Road resident Anthony J. Southard contacted the media to complain about the grass not being cut in an otherwise neat neighborhood off South Transit Road, not far from Lockport High School.
After reporting by The Buffalo News and others, the town had the grass cut and passed a law allowing it to go on private properties that were in foreclosure to do the mowing.
But Southard called The News again last week after the town failed to respond to his complaints that the grass was three feet tall on the same house at 6267 Dorchester.
Supervisor Marc R. Smith checked out the house and termed the situation “unacceptable.” He said the grass would be cut by a town crew by today.
He said Chief Building Inspector Brian M. Belson called the mortgage holder and warned them that the 1½-story house was going to be demolished unless the bank took action to bring it into code compliance.
Smith said the bank’s response was that the grass had gotten too tall and they couldn’t cut it with their regular service, so they had to seek bids for the work.
Smith said, “I don’t really care. It’s a disaster and we’re going to take the bull by the horns.”
Southard said Smith left him a voice mail apologizing for the situation.
Southard said, “Nobody on this street is going to object to the demolition.”
But he addded, “There should be someone here every couple of weeks. I shouldn’t have to call The Buffalo News ...to get the lawn cut.”
Smith said, “We’re actually tracking 54 abandoned houses.”
Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said the town has torn down a couple of abandoned houses this year and got the mortgage holder to fix up another one in order to save it from the bulldozer.
The Dorchester Road house will be brought before the Town Board as soon as its June 30 work session, Norris said. The board could vote that day to schedule a mandatory hearing on the proposed demolition for July 16, when it could vote in favor of razing the house.
That action would start a 90-day clock for the bank to take care of the house. If it doesn’t, then the demolition could begin in October, Norris said.
The house was purchased for $75,000 in 2006, according to public records. The buyer took out a $67,500 adjustable rate mortgage that started at 8.5 percent with First Franklin, a division of National City Bank of Indiana.
By 2008, the mortgage had been transferred to Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. of Pittsburgh, and it started foreclosure proceedings because payments had stopped on the loan with $66,413 still owed. The interest rate was still the original 8.5 percent.
However, the foreclosure was thrown out of court in 2012 because State Supreme Court Justice Timothy J. Walker said paperwork on the mortgage transfers wasn’t in order and because the bank wasn’t pushing the case forward.
Deutsche Bank filed another foreclosure case in June 2013, but nothing has happened since. Southard said a neighbor who runs a lawn-mowing business had a contract from the bank to cut the grass last year, but not this year.
Southard said the neighbor was told by the bank that it wasn’t going to move on the foreclosure for five years because it wanted to keep the house as a tax write-off.
Neither the neighbor nor Deutsche Bank’s law firm, Davidson Fink of Rochester, returned calls seeking confirmation.