House in limbo

No progress on blighted Norwood property

MICHAEL KELLY The Marietta Times A neglected property at 141 Oakwood Ave. continues to cause headaches for neighbors in the Norwood area.

The house was built in 1915, the year before the start of World War I. Public records are spotty for the next several decades, but B.B. and Hattie Marquis are shown as the house’s occupants on the 1928 voters’ list.

From about 1956 to 1973, Edgar and Freda Morgan owned the property, and during part of the 1970s and 1980s Charles E. Hughes Jr. and Theresa Hughes were shown as owners. The house came under the ownership of Jodi Lipscomb in 2006 – perhaps four years earlier, but records show that sale was not valid — and was transferred to Wells Fargo in April 2018, an action normally indicative of a foreclosure. The house was on the January 2018 sheriff’s auction sale list, but no transfer was indicated afterward.

Lipscomb has an active warrant with Marietta Municipal Court dating back to September 2016 for failure to appear on a nuisance property citation. Attempts to contact Lipscomb this week were unsuccessful.

Now, the house has been vacant for a year or more, and neighbors are wondering what will come next for the 1,200-square-foot, four bedroom, one bath derelict building.

On Thursday afternoon, cold wind was blowing through broken windows on the west side of the house, which sits across the street from the side entrance of the Norwood United Methodist Church. Well-kept houses range up the slope of the street, two of them with rental signs posted by the curb.

The driveway on the east side of the house is clogged shoulder-high with dissaffiliated mounds of household debris, ranging from broken tables to a disjointed sofa. An upturned shoe sits by itself, not far from the smashed cabinet of an old CRT television.

Roger Kalter, a former member of Marietta City Council, lives in the neighborhood and has attempted to get the city to move for more than a year to clean the property up. So far, nothing much has happened.

“It’s been a nightmare, broken windows, the house is not secured,” Kalter said. “It doesn’t help the neighborhood when you have a disaster like that.”

The house is not only an eyesore but also a threat to public health, he said.

“There are kids living in the houses on both sides of it, and it’s right across from the church. They serve community meals there, and who wants to look at that every Sunday?” he said. “There were mosquitoes all summer from the impounded water concentrated in there.”

Jamey Young lives on the street and said she has filed numerous nuisance complaints.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Our kids ride their bikes down that way, you have to watch out for nails and glass on the sidewalk. It makes the neighborhood look terrible. I have seen people over there a few times, and there was a realtor there at one point. I talked to him but haven’t seen him since. It’s just not safe, it’s not locked up, there are open windows, the fence is fallen in.”

The city has a lengthy history of trying to get the property sorted out but has had difficulty coming to an agreement with Wells Fargo, the bank that owns it.

City Law Director Paul Bertram III said in late 2017 that he was hopeful that a solution could be found in negotiations between the city and the bank. Bertram could not be contacted this week.

The Oakwood house is one of dozens of blighted properties the city is attempting have cleaned up, but Bertram pointed out last year that contacting and dealing with out-of-town banks that own foreclosed real estate can be challenging and frustrating.

141 Oakwood Ave.

•Age: Built in 1915.

•Neighborhood: Norwood.

•Ownership: Wells Fargo Bank NA, Salt Lake City, Utah.

•Vacant at least one year.

Source: Washington County Auditor’s Office documents.