For 18 years, Paul Sill has looked out from the office of his Frederick Concrete Co. business at a vacant, seemingly abandoned property across the street.
He’s spent the last three years trying to buy it.
City code enforcement inspectors’ efforts to address the host of code violations date back at least two years, when 597 E. Church St. was identified on a 30-property blighted and watch list. Inspectors sent a flurry of citations, followed by fines. Court-ordered abatement came next after unsuccessful attempts to contact the prior owner.
In the meantime, the weeds and grass continued to grow, blanketing most of the lot. The crumbling roof and sagging porch of the warehouse worsened.
“It was an eyesore,” Sill said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Then, the years of waiting, frustration and worsening physical conditions abruptly ended. The title of the 597 E. Church St. property finally transferred to the person who bought the property at auction. Paul Sill’s son and business partner, Jeffrey Sill, bought the new owner’s position.
The $4,600 sale to Molly Investments LLC, the business entity that lists Paul Sill as its principal, was recorded March 2, according to state property tax records.
With the property ownership secured, the Sills wasted no time starting the transformation. The outstanding code violations were fixed. The storage warehouse was gutted, and a new roof and brick facade replaced the crumbling counterparts.
“They moved in like a fury,” said Brittany Parks, the city’s assistant manager of code enforcement.
Above- and below-ground oil tanks, remnants from the property’s former use, will be removed within the next week, followed by additional cosmetic repairs. Paul Sill said in a phone interview on Wednesday he hoped to have the property completely renovated and rentable within 60 days.
He envisions the property as home to a small business, naming painting, plumbing, electrical or any kind of commercial business that could use the 7,000-square-foot warehouse.
Paul Sill declined to estimate a cost for the renovations, which were completed by a group of about 10 hired subcontractors. But the price paled in comparison with the satisfaction of realizing a long-awaited plan to breathe new life into the site.
City code enforcement inspectors, too, celebrated the start to a new chapter on a property plagued with code violations and ownership issues for years.
As of the latest update, 597 E. Church St. has become eligible to be removed from the blighted property and property watch list.
The 30-property list was created in June 2014 and has been updated on a quarterly basis. One blighted and 12 watch-list properties have outstanding violations as of the May 6 update. Six more are eligible for removal if no new violations are found.
Two watch-list properties have been removed, and six more are eligible for future removal, including the East Church Street warehouse. One property previously taken off was placed back on the watch list with new violations.
Parks pointed to the shrinking list as evidence of the city’s success in enforcing compliance with property maintenance code requirements.
“We’re hoping to just keep shrinking the list [until] we get back to regular enforcement and inspection,” she said.
No new properties have been added to the list since it was created. An internal review process among city employees from various departments, Frederick police, and fire and rescue service personnel was set up for that purpose, but no properties have risen to that level of enforcement need, Parks said, nor have any citizen recommendations been submitted for addition to the list.
As for the 13 properties still facing violations, Parks expressed confidence that the constant monitoring by city inspectors in conjunction with the list was effective enforcement.
“Each of these have their own unique flaws or characteristics,” she said of the remaining properties on the list. “We’re making tremendous progress.”