La Cygne council sticks to May 1 deadline to demolish duplex

La Cygne resident Jackie Pribble stands in the yard behind the duplex that the City of La Cygne has ordered to be torn down. Her hand is resting on a stake marking the edge of the alley that, on the city's plat map, goes through the north end of the duplex. (Photo by Roger Sims, Linn County Journal)

LA CYGNE – Jackie Pribble is running out of time. The La Cygne City Council last fall gave the city resident a six-month extension, to May 1, on an order to remove a duplex that sits on the city’s right-of-way on North Second Street, a couple hundred feet north of Market Street.

And on Wednesday night, April 6, the council did not take any action on her request to push the order further back to give her tenants more time to relocate.

“I know I’ve got to tear it down,” Pribble said in a separate interview. However, she said she worries about the tenants in the duplex and whether or not they will find other places to live in the next few weeks. Both of her tenants are on disability and both pay less than $375 monthly in rent.

She said that one tenant was closing on the purchase of a home in Paola at the end of the month, and the other was also looking for another place. However, she said the looming deadline had been stressful on both tenants.

Pribble said that when she and her husband Gavin, who died after an extended illness last month, took out the building permit in 1981 on the 16-foot-by-65-foot duplex, they believed they owned the land behind their house on Railroad Street. The city apparently had no problem issuing the permit, however, the address on the permit was the Pribbles’ mailing address on Railroad Street.

“I don’t know why they didn’t tell me that when I got the permit,” Jackie Pribble said.

She talked about the permit at Wednesday’s meeting, however City Clerk Jodi Wade said that the address on the permit was for the house she lives in, not the other property. However, a copy of the permit Pribble said she obtained from City Hall lists the structure as being a duplex.

A city plat map shows the placement of Pribble's duplex in yellow. In addition to several lots she owns on Railroad Street, she also owns the triangular lot outlined in orange. The alley is marked to the right of the lot and the sewer line is denoted by a line drawn down the middle of the alley.

In an interview, Pribble said that the city’s codes officer came out to the property, took measurements on the size of the duplex. The cost of construction on the permit was listed at $15,000 for materials only, because the Pribbles planned to do most of the work themselves, she said.

Pribble owns several lots on Railroad Avenue as well as one on Second Street. However, apparently no one with the city thoroughly investigated the size and placement of the lot on Second Street, and a survey was not done on the property.

As a result, the duplex was built partially on the city’s right-of-way on Second Street and partially on an alley easement. Under that alley is a sewer line, and as part of the city’s sewer rehabilitation project that is set to start soon, the pipe that runs more than 8 feet below the surface of the middle of that alley will need to be replaced.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, council members listened to her request for an extension of the deadline, but made no move to extend it.

“The council does sympathize with you strongly,” Mayor Debra Wilson told Pribble.

However, Pribble’s case is not an isolated one. Wade said there are several cases of homes in the city sitting on land that does not belong to the homeowner.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, the City Attorney Burton Harding brought up another case where a structure was situated in a city alley at 528 N. Sixth St. Apparently the problem was discovered in the past, and the city and the residents had approved an agreement that the house could remain as long as the couple occupying the house continued to live there.

Harding pointed out that the original owners were now both deceased, thus violating one of the terms of the agreement that it was in effect as long as they lived there. He said the council could either direct the couple’s heirs to remove the building or it could extend the contract with them.

Wade told the council that the situation had been made clear to the heirs of the estate and that they had been invited to speak to the council, but they did not attend. She also said there was no one living in the house.

Councilman Danny Curtis pointed out they had just dealt with a resident with the same problem.

Wilson said the structure was a modular home and could be moved more easily than a house built on site.

Harding said that if the council extended the contract, there was always the range of someone new buying the property without being warned of the problem.

“It’s a good time to clean it up,” he said, suggesting the council could give the heirs up to 90 days to remove the structure.

But Curtis countered with giving them 30 days initially and negotiating with them if they needed more time. The council voted unanimously to cancel the contract.

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