Some residents frustrated with city's enhancement program

By Sara Gouedy - bio | email

EVANSTON, OH (FOX19) - The city of Cincinnati has tried to fight blight by blitzing neighborhoods with everything from code inspectors to police.

While most people have cheered them on, the blitzing right now of Evanston has neighbors on one street crying foul.

These days, attorney Robin Foster is only at his Fairfield Avenue home on weekends. He recently moved to Dublin, Ohio, and put the historic home up for sale.

"I bought this house in 2001, and since then I've been steadily making improvements as many people do," he said. It was appraised at $350,000  about a year ago, and now we're listing it about $25,000 thousand less than that and our expectation is that it will sell significantly lower than that."

So Foster says he felt outraged in September when the city sent him a letter detailing repairs he's required to do to the home by Dec. 17.

"What's upsetting is the changes they are asking for are really not fundamentally in nature just repairs and maintenance, they really are capital improvements and renovations," he said.

The list included repairing the sidewalk, the chimney and painting the exterior of the house.

Foster says he knows his house isn't perfect, but that the list felt like an expensive demand from the city.

"To put people on a tight time schedule, two weeks to respond or you get a hundred dollar fine, which is a pretty short period of time, and then ten weeks to complete the repairs, it's almost impossible to get anyone to come out and complete repairs in ten weeks," Foster said.

Some of Foster's neighbors feel the same way.

"We abide by a whole additional level of regulations that the rest of the city doesn't necessarily have to abide by," said Stephanie Creech. "When you live in an historic district, there are codes and expectations that we willingly signed up to meet."

What's more is that neighbors on one side of the street say they got those letters from the city of Cincinnati, while neighbors on the others side say they didn't.

"For one block, the one half of Fairfield is in Evanston, the other half is in Walnut Hills, according to the boundaries," said Edward Cunningham with the City of Cincinnati.

A panel of community representatives listened to the citizen complaints on Fairfield and said the city's requests are part of a "neighborhood blitz" going on in Evanston. Community leaders refer to it as "NEP," or Neighborhood Enhancement Program.

Since it began, NEPs have been given several state and national awards.

"We're not looking at one or two homes, we're looking at street by street and block by block," said Anzora Atkins with Evanston Community Council.

That includes the homes on Fairfield Avenue, and in other parts of Evanston.

"This is a minimum code. I mean, this is a bare minimum of what is needed in our city to make a house safe and keep it from falling into further decay," said Cunningham.

The panel said the city offers a number of programs to help residents make and finance improvements to their houses. City leaders say the code enforcement letters are not to penalize anyone, but residents are still frustrated.

"This is a community as I mentioned where people take an active role interest in their property, and are making good faith efforts to clean things up," said Foster.

Something Foster would rather do without city intervention.