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Crumbling downtown building involved in another lawsuit - over fire escape

Crumbling downtown building involved in another lawsuit - over fire escape

July 11th, 2019 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

Residences at 204 LLC (owner of 204 E. High St.), building at right, filed a petition for injunctive relief against Neidert Properties LLC (owner of 200 E. High St.) at left. Residences at 204 is asking the court to order Neidert Properties to remove the fire escape from a shared private alley located immediately behind the buildings.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

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A month after a judge ruled Neidert Properties LLC could proceed with demolishing a crumbling building in downtown Jefferson City, the property owner is once again involved in another lawsuit.

Residences at 204 LLC — the property owner of 204 E. High St. — filed a petition for injunctive relief against Neidert Properties LLC — owner of 200 E. High St. — on June 25 with the Cole County Circuit Court.

Residences at 204 LLC is asking the court to order Neidert Properties to remove the fire escape from a shared private alley, as well as restrain Neidert Properties from "obstructing in any manner the lower 10 feet of the private alley," according to the petition.

Residences at 204, Neidert Properties, and Carol and Ruben Wieberg — property owners of 202 E. High St. — jointly own a private alley that runs along the south side of the three East High Street buildings.

A 1978 agreement — signed by the predecessors of 200-204 E. High St. — contains restrictive use covenants regarding the alley. A portion of the restrictive covenants states "a vertical clearance of 10 feet shall be kept and maintained above the paving" in the private alley, according to the petition.

Around 2016, Neidert Properties attached a fire escape to 200 E. High St. in the alley, according to the petition.

Andrew Neidert, with Neidert Properties, said the fire escape was behind 200 E. High St. before Jay Seaver purchased 204 E. High St.

The fire escape "extends from the paving in the private alley to a point which is above 10 feet from the paving," the petition states, adding the portion of the fire escape that is between the paving and above 10 feet from the paving violates the restrictive covenants in the 1978 agreement.

Residences at 204 told Neidert Properties the fire escape violates the restrictive covenants and ordered Neidert Properties to remove the fire escape, and Neidert Properties did not remove the fire escape, according to the petition.

"The fire escape obstructs the private alley so that the owners of 202 and 204 East High Street are unable to operate vehicles on the private alley and pedestrians have difficulty in using the private alley due to the size and placement of the fire escape," the petition states.

Residences at 204 will "suffer irreparable damage" if the court does not order Neidert Properties to remove the fire escape from the lower 10 feet of the private alley, the petition adds.

Neidert said it was his understanding Seaver "used that fire escape to negotiate a better purchasing price," adding Neidert has "heard nothing else since" regarding the fire escape.

"If he would have simply picked the phone up and called me, we could have figured out the easement issue, and that would have avoided slowing the progress that's happening between the property owners of 202 and 200," he said. "That would have avoided wasting the court's time by dealing with something that could have been handled over the phone."

Harold Walther, representing Residences at 204, said in an email to the News Tribune that he had spoken with the Michael Berry — the attorney representing Neidert Properties — adding "we are hopeful of an amicable resolution of the matter without protracted litigation."

While the petition mentions the Wiebergs, it does not name them as defendants.

A court hearing had not been set as of Wednesday.

Neidert said he doesn't believe the newest lawsuit will delay demolition of 200 E. High St. but "it probably has potential to."

Last month, Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce ruled Neidert Properties could proceed with demolishing 200 E. High St.

That ruling came nearly a year after the west wall at 200 E. High St. partially collapsed due to water infiltration and hidden decay of the mortar in the wall.

Neidert Properties and the Wiebergs did not agree on who was responsible for repairing and maintaining the shared wall between 200 and 202 E. High St. Neidert Properties filed a declaratory judgment action against the Wiebergs last October, and the Wiebergs filed a counter-petition in response.

The city ruled both 200 and 202 E. High St. dangerous buildings last fall, giving Neidert Properties and the Wiebergs city-imposed deadlines to repair or demolish their buildings, which both downtown property owners missed.

When the property owners missed the deadlines, the city conducted administrative hearings and ruled if the property owners did not repair or demolish the buildings, the city could begin the abatement process.

The Wiebergs filed a lawsuit against the city in March, asking for a new hearing. Last month, Joyce affirmed the city's ruling that 202 E. High St. was a dangerous building and the Wiebergs must repair or demolish the property.

The Wiebergs plan to repair the shared wall between 202 and 200 E. High St.