After 4 1/2 years, Jackson County is poised to move on the “hideous hotel” near Interstate 10 and North Washington Avenue.
A resolution last week sets in motion the process of declaring it a menace to public health — the mechanism needed to have the burned and rotting, three-story hotel demolished and cleared from the property.
Until recently, the county’s hands were tied by wrangling in federal court over the hotel that burned because of arson in October 2012. Since then, it has sat rotting with neighbors complaining that it is “hideous,” dangerous and a liability to the area.
It’s still not clear how the county will foot the bill and work toward getting its money back once it’s torn down, but county Supervisor Troy Ross is determined the county will pick from a number of options and move forward.
Jackson County set the public hearing for Aug. 7. The property owner has been formally notified by letter. County planning officials said that once declared a menace in August, all that’s left is picking a contractor and scheduling the demolition.
There’s a possibility the hulk of a building will be torn down by the end of October.
Ross said a window for the county to act came “once the federal court got out of it. That’s when we were free to tear it down.
“This is the first chance we’ve had to tear it down, so we’re committed to it,” Ross said.
He said lawsuits between the owner of the property and the person or entity leasing it have kept the old Howard Johnson Express Inn sitting untouched a block off North Washington Avenue.
It is easily visible from the busy main drag, with its thriving hotels and fast-food establishments. Neighbors say it is more than an eyesore, they say it is “killing real estate values” in that area of west Jackson County.
An engineer has estimated the cost of demolishing the structure and removing the debris at $130,000. The biggest cost will be disposal.
State law allows the county to recoup only up to $20,000 by placing a lien on the property, to be paid back when the land is sold.
That leaves quite a gap.
Ross listed options the county is looking at:
▪ Seek legislation to increase the amount the county is allowed to recover with a lien on the property.
▪ Request the owner or the entity that received insurance money from the fire settlement to step up and share the cost with the county.
▪ Use county money to hire a contractor to tear it down and sue the owner for the cost.
▪ Move forward with the demolition, using county employees and equipment, save the receipts and sue the owners for the cost above $20,000.