Frederick residents upset with city's statements on Asiana

File photo - 123 N. Market St.

Residents are frustrated with city of Frederick officials because they say they are being misled about the progress that has been made addressing code violations at the vacant Asiana restaurant downtown.

A city attorney asked a Frederick County judge in October to waive citations against the owners of the property associated with code violations, telling the judge that all building code issues related to citations had been addressed.

But the building is still unfit for occupancy, was not secure at the time of the court case, and needs flooring repairs, electrical and plumbing work. Those are all issues identified in the original violations associated with the citations.

City officials are not being transparent to residents at a time when they need to be, said Truby LaGarde, leader of the downtown area’s neighborhood advisory council.

“I think at this stage of the game, people are discouraged, to put it gently, discouraged (in) many respects,” she said.

The city issued the owners 10 citations in March for up to $1,000 each after the owners failed to bring the building, at 123-125 N. Market St., up to code.

To address one of the citations, the owners paid $1,000 and signed a consent order.

During the court hearing in October addressing the remaining nine citations, city attorney Scott Waxter told the judge that the city had inspected the property and that all of the problems had been addressed.

When residents emailed the city saying they were concerned that the citations had been dismissed, Nikki Bamonti, executive assistant to Mayor Randy McClement, responded.

“The property owner completed all necessary repairs to address the outstanding code violations,” she wrote. “The citations that were issued were written for specific code violations, many of which addressed major structural issues for the property. Those matters have been corrected and the citations issued for those specific code violations were dismissed upon the completion of the repairs.”

Last week, when asked about the building issues that were not addressed but were included in the original violations, Waxter and Bamonti said the city decided at the time to dismiss the citations without going point by point through each problem in the building.

They said at the time that it was a strategic move by the city to dismiss the citations to go back later and be more specific in the violations about what work needed to be done. More violations have now been issued.

“It was more to give us leverage,” Waxter said.

When asked to make a final comment on the subject Tuesday, Waxter said he was concerned it is being insinuated that he made a material misrepresentation to the court, and that is not true.

He reiterated his comments made in court that all violations addressed by the citations were acted upon at the time of the court case.

Ned Bond, who owns Da Black Cat, two storefronts down from the Asiana, said the city was and continues to be deceptive with the actual status of the building.

Condemnation issue

At the time of the hearing, Bond said he knew that not all repairs associated with the violations had been completed.

He said that was confirmed a few months later, when the condemnation sign went back up on the building.

The building was first condemned in April 2012, and one of the reasons listed for the condemnation was that the structure was unfit for occupancy.

One of the citations the city issued in March was for failure to address a violation citing that the structure was unfit for human occupancy.

After the hearing, Bond sent a question to the city asking about the status of the condemnation because the condemnation sticker was no longer on the building. He never heard back from the city.

Asked last week what happened, Bamonti said the sign fell off, and there was confusion on city staff’s part on when a building could be uncondemned.

After discussing the issue, Bamonti said, the city put the condemnation sign back on the building.

The new sign, dated Dec. 12, states the same reason for the building’s condemnation, that the structure is unfit for occupancy.

Waxter said on that issue, it is not typical to write a citation for a building that has been condemned.

“That citation was thusly dismissed,” he wrote.

Bond said many other violations had not been addressed at the time of the hearing.

The co-owner of the building, Duk Hee Ro, acknowledges there is more work to be done on the building.

Ro said she is having issues with her contractors, one of which she has filed a claim against in court.

The contractors won’t complete the work, even though they have been overpaid, she said.

The floors need work, and electrical and plumbing problems still need to be addressed, Ro said.

Alderman Josh Bokee said he will not be satisfied until the building is leased out.

“The city needs to ensure that it has its foot on the gas and doesn’t let up,” he said.

Fines fall flat

Declaring in court that the required repairs were completed when they weren’t is not code enforcement and does not give the city any more leverage against the building owners, Bond said.

Residents were hopeful that there was going to be movement when there were fines, LaGarde said.

“And we went to court, and then all the sudden, that kind of fell flat,” she said. “I had a lot of people asking why.”

It seems like the city is not following its process, and residents want the city to stick with the process, she said.

“What I’m hearing is they want to be a kinder, gentler city,” she said. “I think people who have put up with it for 15 years or more are fed up with a kinder, gentler city.”

Waxter said there is no intent on the city’s behalf to let the property slip backward.

Bamonti said she thinks the city is seeing progress.

“It’s not like we’re hitting a wall,” she said.

Follow Jen Fifield on Twitter: @JenAFifield.

(22) comments

girlpolitic

Bamonti said she thinks the city is seeing progress.
“It’s not like we’re hitting a wall,” she said.

It is the adjacent property owners that "feel like they are hitting a wall" when they contact City Hall and expect any positive action.

threecents

There should be laws that if the place does not make it up to code within a certain period of time, then the city should have the option to contract out an independent appraisal of the work required. The owners should be required to pay that amount to the city. Then the city should contract out the work. If the owner cannot or does not pay the appraised amount then the city should require that the property be sold or put into receivership. Right?

KellyAlzan

"Appraiser"??

sue1955

I agree with you, DeDeuceCoupe32. The house that my sister and brother-in-law rented from her (Mrs. Ro) twenty years ago was a mess. (They didn't know any better and needed an inexpensive place for a roof over their heads). For one thing, the electric in that 1900-built house badly needed to be upgraded. The Ros did nothing in terms of repairs/maintenance.

KellyAlzan

That all may be true, but that's neither here nor there in terms of the issue at hand.

DeDeuceCoupe32

Ro uses the cheapest labor she can find and nickel dimes them to extinction. She's been operating in the city like that for decades. Most in the private sector avoid her like the plague. The mayor and his public sector cohorts couldn't survive in the private sector where accountability is front and center.

BstD59

This is a result of voting in a Mayor who wants nothing to do with the job at hand. He only wants to have his picture in the papers smiling while he attends hand-shaking events, or cuts ribbons...anything but real work. In his previous term he accomplished absolutely nothing and this term looks to be turning out the same. He was desperate to hire someone like Bamonti to actually perform the duties he was elected to do. In his last term he relied on a city attorney to tell him what to do.

If anything is to be done about the Ro's property we need to depend upon the Aldermen to step up to the plate because the mayor is certainly not going to do anything, he's too afraid to ruffle anyone's feathers, and so far, only Alderman Josh Bokee seems to agree with the public that something needs to be done.

ralphtrammel

Sounds like somebody is getting paid under the table. This has been going on for a long time. The city closed my business down because I didn't have any money. I was just trying to make a living.

KellyAlzan

A few things:

1) the ro's just need to sell the building and be done with it. Put the money in some high yielding investment and get on with their life.

2) so the building needs a floor and plumbing? That's it? I do not see it as a threat to the neighboring buildings. The water is shut off, so no flooding to worry about. And the building won't collapse because it needs a floor. The building is no longer a blight. Just because it's not fit/ready for occupancy does not mean it's a detriment to the neighbors safety.

3) by enforcing the $10,000 in fines - you're only making it harder for the owner to do the necessary work. It's counter productive.

4) as long as the building doesn't have debris blowing off of it, is about to collapse, has electrical issues, or the potential to flood the adjoining building(s) then it's not a threat to anyone. The plumbing is off, so there is not water to worry about. That's a better feeling then wording Bout your neighbors pipes freezing while their away.

5) there is no law saying that the ro's have to use the building. They can let it sit empty just like carjack jays.

MAVRICKinc7

How many more EXCUSES do you have in that bag of yours?

jerseygrl42

talk about mis-management

Dwasserba

Depends on what your definition of "is," is.
Is it the same sign put back up, or a snazzy new one?
That's progress.

sue1955

The Ros let this property go downhill for years and now they want to blame the contractors for not finishing work even though they have been overpaid? Yeah, right.

cyntiast

Keep in mind there are MANY blighted buildings in the city. This particular building has high visibility due to proximity. The city has to be smart because what they do with one property owner, they have to do to all in similar situations. If this property owner really cared, they would let a responsible investor purchase the property. Many issues would be resolved, and it would be a boost for the community. So please consider that option Ms. property owner. Just sell it and let everything move along to get the building renovated and become an enhancement to the town. Win Win!

Dwasserba

The perceived prestige is in the owning. Condition doesn't really have that much to do with it.

CynnicalSid

Wait? The problem here is not the property owners!! The property owner said there were problems with plumbing, electrical, flooring etc.. Now the contractor involved is being sued!

But the City, including the Mayor said all the required work was done! The lies told by the City, falsified inspection reports AND that material misrepresentation of fact told in court by the city attorney (there were 26 permits open and not completed as well) how long before the property owners sue the City?

Fire the Mayor, the Attorney, the inspector, and code manager!

It is interesting that given the tone of this article, the best response the only Alderman can muster is I'd like to see something in there!

Well, we would like to see you do your job!

jwhamann

Vietnam vets should protest here....Dragon Lady is a traitor to Frederick.

bizness

[thumbup]

Josephbattles

Really, really frustrated by the city on this issue. I don't understand why they are being so deceptive. Just make them fix up the building or sell it. Done and done.

KellyAlzan

It doesn't work that way. The building is not about to collapse. No laws stating that even a brand new building must be used. Of is isn't your lone world

threecents

I condemn the way the city has handled Asiana. Josh, I voted for you, but I won't be satisfied until there is a new owner - perhaps the city.

dcg326

No names, who are they, who are upset??Same no appearence against.[wink]

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