MASON CITY, Iowa - Driving along North Federal Avenue, it may still come as a bit of a shock to no longer see the Marsden Building standing at the intersection with 15th Street Northwest. After a period of sitting vacant and decaying, it was demolished in February of this year.
Thanks to Iowa Code Section 657A, the city has been making strides in tearing down dilapidated homes and buildings. In the last two years, the city has acquired eight such properties that are considered abandoned under state statute, six of those having already been demolished.
Development Services Director Steven Van Steenhuyse says the city prefers to work with the property owner to see if the property in question can be rehabilitated and brought up to code before taking further action. He adds that it not only saves the city money, but also keeps it on the tax rolls.
"We've had several properties where the property owner, because of that possibility, has said, 'OK, I've let this one go long enough, I'm going to go ahead and get this fixed up.' There have been some very nice redevelopment of homes in city neighborhoods."
Residents can submit a report regarding a property that need serious attention through the SeeClickFix website or mobile phone application. However, as there are legal hoops the city must go through to acquire such a property, he advises residents to be patient.
"If we have to go to court, then we're subject to the court's calendar. We can't get in front of a judge for 4-6 months because of their calendar. We try to work with the neighborhood and say, 'we're doing everything we can, be patient. We're going to get this fixed, but it is going to take some time.'"
If a property meets certain guidelines that can determine if it's abandoned, section 657A allows judges to give the title of the property to the city free and clear of any liens or back taxes.