The building that used to house the Edwards Apartments is in rough shape, but visitors don’t even need to see it in person to come to that conclusion.
Property records show a succession of cascading sales prices for the 602 S.E. Dorion Ave. apartment complex.
Scott Wallace bought the property for $117,000 in 2001, but by the time he sold it to Boring Properties LLC in 2014, the property had been condemned and he only got $50,000 for it.
Boring Properties wasn’t able to recoup its investment either, selling Edwards for $37,900 in March 2018 to Joe Bachmeier.
But despite changing hands multiple times in the nine years its been closed, the façade continues to crack and the windows are still boarded.
Members of the Pendleton City Council have specifically cited the condition of Edwards Apartments as a reason why the city needs to be more aggressive about dealing with blighted properties.
City Attorney Nancy Kerns drafted a “Dangerous Buildings and Vacant Premises Code” as a response to the issue, and she explained how it works at a council workshop Tuesday.
“This is intended to reach the areas where we wanted to have better reach,” she said.
The proposed code is meant to address several different issues.
One of its main targets is derelict structures — buildings that are unsecured and vacant.
Properties that meet those first two qualities and are also in some stage of foreclosure are in violation of the code, a provision meant to combat the rise of “zombie properties.”
Kerns defined a zombie property as a property that the owner abandoned once foreclosure proceedings were started, but that the bank doesn’t want to take responsibility for.
“Truly a property without an owner,” she said.
According to Kerns, banks are noncooperative in dealing with squatting, which led to another section of the code.
Under the proposed ordinance, owners of vacant buildings will automatically be entered into a “trespass enforcement agreement,” which allows police to remove squatters without having to ask for the owner’s consent every time there’s a report of an intruder on a vacant property.
If a property is found to be in violation of the code, owners can face up to $1,000 per day in fines or $2,000 per day if they’ve violated the code multiple times.
Kerns said the fines could either spur building owners to remedy the situation or allow the city to build up a lien on the property.
The city could then foreclose on the lien and acquire the property, but Kerns said the foreclosure process can be intensive and the lien amount would have to be high enough to make the process worth it.
And after the city takes ownership of a building, it would have to figure out what to do with it.
“I look at properties that are vacant and a problem in the city (and) I don’t know what anybody would ever do with that piece of property,” she said. “Do we want to become owners of this property? I don’t know.”
While the ordinance is still in the draft phase, if the council were to adopt it, Kerns said she would send out letters to property owners across town warning them that their property could violate the code.
Toward the end of Kerns’ presentation, council and staff debated whether Edwards Apartments would violate the dangerous buildings code or not.
Kerns said the structure was uninhabitable but not derelict because it was secured from entry. She added that she’s spoken with the police multiple times and has been told that the former complex doesn’t attract many vagrants.
But Mayor John Turner said the building seemed to violate language in the code that prohibited people from keeping their windows boarded for more than 90 days without replacing them.
Bachmeier, the new owner, said he agrees with the principle of the code, but he hopes the city would work with him before handing out fines.
Bachmeier works for his parents’ property management company, Let’er Rent, and said that he intends to renovate the building into a seven-unit apartment complex.
Bachmeier said he’s already started electrical and roofing work on the building and he’s in discussions with Pendleton Development Commission Associate Director Charles Denight on receiving financial assistance from the urban renewal district.
He didn’t have a definitive timeline, but he expects to have it done in phases.