City of Sapulpa cracking down on hazardous properties

By Charles Betzler

A number of properties have come under the scrutiny of the City’s Building Inspector in recent months. Houses that have been abandoned, neglected, or suffered significant fire damage plague Sapulpa neighborhoods.

The City follows up on code violations ranging from overgrown yards to structurally unsound homes that represent a danger to people and property.

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Urban Development Director Nikki Howard presided over a special abatement hearing held at City Hall on Wednesday, September 7th, to determine what action would be taken on several properties in a state of disrepair and neglect.

Building Inspector Mark Stephens gave a report on the list of properties and Howard determined what action would be taken.

The first property to come before Howard was 134 South Independence. According to Stephens, the property was abandoned and the water tap had been removed. It has been in a state of disrepair for 6 months and there was debris in the yard. Some work on the property had been attempted but no permit had been acquired. Howard said a permit must be obtained within 30 days or the house will be demolished.

The home located at 143 South Independence was in a similar state; the water tap had been removed, there is a large amount of trash and debris in the yard, the front yard grass is 12 inches high and the backyard is 3 feet tall. The house itself has been damaged by fire. Howard gave the owner 10 days to remove debris and mow, and 30 days to start repairs or demolish the structure.

The third property on the list was 20 South Independence. The house was severely damaged by fire and left unsecured for over a year. The new owner, Travis Ross, told Howard he would have already torn it down but he shattered his elbow. He assured Howard that the demo would start immediately. As of Saturday, September 10, Ross was in the process of tearing down the structure.

The fourth property before Howard was 205 West Lincoln. There is a house and a second structure behind the house. The house suffered extensive fire damage approximately 45 days ago. The property is unsecured and poses a hazard to the neighborhood. Property owner, James R. Fitzpatrick was asked by Howard why he had not received a letter from the insurance company at the time of the hearing. Fitzpatrick said he had talked with the insurance company and a letter was sent out but had not yet reached him. The house has suffered 40 percent damage which places the cost of repair at 50 percent of the value of the residence. There is trash and debris in the backyard and drive.

This home at 205 West Lincoln caught fire and burned about 45 days ago, but has yet to undergo any sort of repair or demolition. It’s one of several homes under scrutiny which are owned by a single individual. Charles Betzler photo.

Howard admonished Fitzpatrick for being before the board quite often for code violations. “You’re in here a lot,” she said.

Sapulpa Times has since learned that Travis Ross purchased the home on 20 South Independence from Ray Fitzpatrick, according to Ross himself. 

Neighbor Sandie Howard spoke before Howard telling her that the property had been an ongoing problem with people going in and out of the damaged structure. She said there was a box truck with no tag parked in the drive and the previous tenant was apparently loading her belongings into the vehicle. She said as a representative of the neighborhood she would like to see the property torn down. She lamented it had been a great house but was now destroyed. Nikki Howard gave Fitzpatrick 5 days to secure the property, and 10 days to clean up trash and debris. She said he had 30 days to have a letter from the insurance company stating he would rebuild or the house would be demolished.

The fifth property was 412 South Muskogee. The structure is especially a total loss from a fire on August 4th. The property is unsecured and the owner has been living in the backyard, burning candles which is a concern to the neighbors next door, whose privacy fence and home were damaged by the fire.

This home at 412 South Muskogee has been deemed a total loss, but the owner has been living in the backyard, alarming the neighbors. Charles Betzler photo.

Neighbors Benjamin and Molly Gibbs spoke before Howard explaining the danger that the homeowner, Jennifer Williams, presented to their party and the struggle with code violations prior to the fire. Months before the fires Gibbs told her: “Jennifer left unattended burning candles on her dilapidated porch surrounded by four-foot tall, dry grass.” Gibbs said at that time the police put in another abatement request, and Code Enforcement came to the property “right before the fourth of July,” she said, adding, “a month later the house burned to the ground.” The fire was four feet from their bedroom. Gibbs recently found Williams in the backyard burning a candle. “We live in constant fear that Jennifer will cause another fire,” Howard said Williams would have 30 days to demolish the house.