What's Up With That? No money for move; houses stay on blocks

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Just wondering if you knew anymore on those boarded-up houses in the 3000 block of 172nd Avenue. These houses are still up on blocks in the same spot and still an eyesore. I've been wondering if there is any hope of getting rid of the houses.

— Diana Grace

Join the club, Diana. Everyone wants those houses gone, including Clark County Code Enforcement, a couple of absentee property-owning sisters and an onsite brother — not to mention the defunct company that's being sued over the continued presence of the "eyesore" on Northeast 172nd Avenue.

Refresher: Expansion-minded PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center has long been clearing its surroundings of older houses. It hired Matt Burton's company, Homes Worth Keeping, to pick up and replant some of those houses elsewhere — as affordable housing for people who need it, "rather than send tons of material to the landfill," hospital spokesman Ken Cole said.

But Burton, falling behind an agreed-upon schedule, approached Tom Cox, who lives on family acreage at Northeast 172nd Avenue. Cox agreed to babysit the houses temporarily and collect $1,000 per month in rent while Burton figured out their final destinations.

All of which "fell through for a number of reasons," said attorney Peter Fels. A few of the houses moved along, but 11 never left. Homes Worth Keeping went out of business and stopped paying Cox the rent. Cox's permit to store the houses expired last summer, according to code enforcement officer Donna Goddard. Goddard could start writing violation notices, but it's clear that the Cox family isn't really to blame; she said she'd rather wait and see what happens with a lawsuit filed by two Cox sisters, based in Seattle, against Burton and the moving company he worked with.

Fels filed the suit in Clark County Superior Court on Feb. 7. "The only way we could figure out to get rid of those houses was to file suit for damages," he said. "We are asking for the cost of demolishing the houses."

But that still doesn't mean a real solution is anywhere at hand — because demolition costs money, too. "Nobody has the money to demolish them and nobody has the money to move them," Fels said. "And my clients don't want to sink any more money into this." Meanwhile, he added, nature is taking its course: those houses are deteriorating where they sit.

"It's going to be a very expensive proposition to do anything with those homes. It is one big mess," Goddard eloquently concluded. And it doesn't seem like it's going anywhere anytime soon.

— Scott Hewitt

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