Woman Hopes to Sway City’s Decision to Demolish 19th Century Home in Chariton

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CHARITON, Iowa - Jeanette McGee says the little red cottage at 613 E. Court Avenue in her hometown of Chariton has always caught her eye.

"I've been eyeing this house for a few years," she said. "They just don't make houses like this anymore."

The run-down house looks like it could have been inspiring once upon a time; built in 1893, McGee says she still sees its character through the worn paint and broken windows. That's why she had hoped to restore it to its former glory when she bought it, even though the ad for the home stated whomever purchased it would have to tear it down, per a city ordinance deeming it a nuisance in November 2014.

"I called the agent to see if a person if interested in salvaging the house could do so," she said. "She stated that I would need to address city hall and the city manager. I inquired about this home to the city manager and he had stated that I would need to purchase the home first before I could challenge the order to tear the home down."

So that's what McGee did. After speaking with Chariton City Manager Joe Gaa, McGee says she was told though it would be a lengthy appeal process, involving a judge reversing the nuisance order on the house, that it would be possible for her to lay out a plan to city officials that would cause them to reconsider the tear-down order.

"I purchased the home thinking that I would have a fair opportunity to address the repairs needed to salvage the home," she said. "However, the day after the purchase, the city manager stated it needed to come down. I wrote a proposal to the city council with clear bench-marks of improvements I would make to the home and deadlines I was willing to commit to in order to restore, versus demolishing a perfectly good, older home. Again, the very next day after emailing letters, I was turned down without reason."

Gaa says city council members received McGee's proposals via email over the weekend before the Monday night council meeting where they discussed the issue. Fearing it would set a "horrible precedent" forcing the city to overturn all demolition orders on homes, as it could effect several ongoing and upcoming cases, Gaa says city officials chose to maintain their stance on McGee's home - but she doesn't feel she was given the "due process" of considering her proposals.

"I feel I have not been given a fair chance to fix anything as the new owner," she said. "If the city manager would have been firm in the beginning and stated there was no hope of salvaging this property, I most definitely would have not purchased it."

For now, the city has given McGee until October to begin the process of tearing down the home. McGee says she's hoping between now and then, she can convince them to reconsider. She's writing letters to every council member, and hoping more attention on the issue could bring this house the chance it deserves.

"It seems absurd that a city hall could have that much power, especially when the are working and paid for by the residents," she said.

Chariton Home

Jeanette McGee examines the home she recently purchased at 613 E. Court Avenue in Chariton. City officials have proclaimed the home a nuisance and ordered its demolition, though McGee wishes to restore it and preserve its history. (WHO-HD/Reid Chandler)


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