Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

City of Tampa to demolish crumbling Davis Islands home

TAMPA — For five years, the house on Severn Avenue sat unoccupied and neglected, neighbors say.

They watched as the 4,000-square-foot mansion's stucco facade began to crumble, the carport columns cracked and the decorative trim deteriorated.

They complained as pests and teenagers crept in and the yard overgrew with weeds.

On Wednesday, those same neighbors celebrated. The city of Tampa will demolish the Davis Islands home within the next two weeks.

"Justice has finally been served," said Bill Newman, who lives nearby. "This was totally ridiculous for five years."

At 545 Severn Ave., the house belonging to John and Mary Perez was slated for demolition last month but an appeal delayed the action.

The Perezes spent the last two weeks boarding up windows, painting over graffiti and cleaning the yard in an attempt to come into compliance with city code.

But, the house is too far gone, said code enforcement officer Alan Villa at a special meeting of the code enforcement board Wednesday morning.

The house is 100 percent deteriorated, Villa said. Hillsborough County property records put its worth at $27,988 without the land. The estimated cost to repair the house is more than $190,000, Villa said.

Built in 1971, the home's former glory is still apparent in the turret-like curve of the building and the large, two-story tall windows overlooking the Peter O'Knight Airport across the street.

Inside, though, there is extensive water damage, including mold and mildew, Villa said. Photos show torn drywall and a hole in the ceiling where the second story collapsed.

The Perezes' lawyer, Dennis Lopez, acknowledged Wednesday that demolition may be the only option but requested 30 days to further assess the house.

"There's either going to be demolition and a vacant lot," Lopez said. "Or, there's going to be a rehabilitation of the existing structure. … In the event they get information that the premises are in fact salvageable, we'll present back here."

The home was deemed uninhabitable after hurricane damage in 2005 or 2006, Lopez said.

Despite living less than a mile away in another Davis Islands home, the owners were not aware, Lopez said, that there were concerns about the home besides a bee infestation they had been working with the city to relieve.

The couple, who purchased the home in 1995 for $190,000, could not be reached for comment.

Neighbors say the damage to the home has been apparent for years.

"We've been really lenient, no one wants to tear a neighbor's house down," said Antonio Amadeo, member of the Davis Islands Civic Association. "But when you see the level of disrepair that it's at, it must come down."

The city signed the paperwork to make the demolition official on Wednesday, and the work could happen as soon as a crew is available, said Sal Ruggiero, manager of the Neighborhood Enhancement Division. The demolition will cost $15,000, Ruggiero said, and a lien will be placed on the property to reflect that.

The Perezes also owe $3,800 in fines from a previous code enforcement violation.

Though they'll soon have a vacant lot next door instead, neighbors say they are looking forward to the change.

"How would you like to live next to a boarded up house?" said Newman, indicating that the Perezes had watched the home deteriorate for some time. "They had no intention of ever living there again."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3401.

   
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