Neighbors Raise Concerns Over Burned Out Home

By Troubleshooter Sabina Kuriakose
|  Saturday, Aug 25, 2012  |  Updated 1:05 AM EDT
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A house destroyed by a fire right after the October 2011 snow storm is still standing.  Neighbors are now turning to the Troubleshooters about the eyesore that has plagued their neighborhood for 9 months.

A house destroyed by a fire right after the October 2011 snow storm is still standing. Neighbors are now turning to the Troubleshooters about the eyesore that has plagued their neighborhood for 9 months.

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On a street lined with neatly kept lawns and white picket fences, just a stone's throw from West Hartford Town Center and the carefully carved image of Blue Back Square, the Troubleshooters came across a sight many would not expect to see.
 
"A derelict house that still smells when you walk by it.  And it's just imploding," described neighbor Sue Grew.
 
Grew is talking about a house on Argyle Avenue in West Hartford that's been boarded up, with broken windows and barely a roof left since last October's freak snowstorm.  Neighbors remember the fire that gutted the single family home within hours of power being restored to the neighborhood.  While the cause of the fire remains unclear, so has the fate of the house--for nine months.

"It just strikes me as odd.  Houses that are for sale here, they sell in two or three weeks," said neighbor Peter Rasmussen.

"At night especially on windy nights or rainy nights whenever there's any sort of weather you do hear some creaking from the house.  You do hear thuds and our dogs inside will perk their ears up, like 'what's going on over there,'" said neighbor Dan Shannon.
 
Shannon said he is friendly with the owners, and like the rest of the neighborhood, he feels for what they must be going through.  But day after day of living next door to a condemned building has taken its toll.  The house is a total loss according to the Fire Marshal's report, and it's been deemed unsafe by the Town.

Neighbors worry kids will be tempted to play inside what's left of the home, and say some boards in the back have been pulled away. They say they've seen scrap dealers come by, and the police have been called to the house.

Shannon said he has been in touch with owner Gregg Nanni, but said it still wasn't clear what was going on.  Eventually, neighbors called the Troubleshooters.  Nanni told the Troubleshooters that it's been a very tough time for his family, but he didn't discuss why rebuilding has taken so long or give a timeline for when the house would be torn down.

The Troubleshooters went to Mayor Scott Slifka for answers.  Until this month, he lived nearby.
"Mayor, for a Town that prides itself on it's attractiveness, this is quite an eyesore, wouldn't you say?" asked our reporter.

"It's a very frustrating thing.  This is not something anybody wants to have happen," replied the Mayor.
 
Slifka said the property bothers him too.  He said having a vacant house sit for so long is unusual, and the Town's been working with the owner to speed up the cleanup.
"We're trying to stick up for the neighborhood but at the same time we're trying to do right by the owner too, who may be in a really tough position," said the Mayor.

"If they don't take action in very short order, however, I think we're going to be left with no recourse but to go to court, seek an injunction, and force it," Slifka added.

Just this week, after the Troubleshooters met with Mayor Slifka, the Town told us the owner has applied for a demolition permit. Still, that's just the beginning of a long process.  The Mayor said the Town will make sure the situation is taken care of as soon as possible.

"How dangerous of a situation is it right now?" asked our reporter. "From what we understand, from a public safety standpoint it's not going to harm anybody in the neighborhood. You're not supposed to be on the property," answered Mayor Slifka.

Meanwhile, all of this hasn't hurt this community's sense of neighborliness.
"Obviously understand the loss they sustained and I hope he knows the neighborhood is concerned and wants to help in any way," said Shannon.
 
"I care about my neighborhood," added Rasmussen.

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