Bloomingburg resident stops village from demolishing his house


A Washington C.H. resident who filed a protection order against the Village of Bloomingburg over a property nuisance dispute has come to an agreement that may save his house from being demolished.

Terry R. Merritt, 64, stopped the Village of Bloomingburg from knocking down his 82 West St. house by appealing the village’s decision to demolish the residence for being a nuisance.

A hearing on the matter was held Tuesday, Sept. 5 in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas, where Merritt appeared in court pro se (as his own attorney). Sean Abbott, the Village of Bloomingburg solicitor, asked the court to dismiss Merritt’s case for procedural reasons after Merritt failed to prepare and file a transcript or affidavit in a timely manner.

Fayette County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven Beathard said he would take the matter under advisement and issue a decision at a later date, but before Beathard could reach a decision, Abbott, Merritt, and the village reached their own agreement later that same day during the village council meeting.

In that village council meeting, Abbott said Merritt and the village agreed and filed a joint motion to dismiss Merritt’s appeal.

“I invited [Merritt] to the council meeting Tuesday to reach an agreement where both parties have a plan of action which I believe we accomplished by entering into an agreement with the village,” said Abbott.

Abbott said Merritt will fix the 82 West St. house to meet local ordinances and codes within four months. If he doesn’t, village council is poised to demolish the house.

The house, while appearing to be structurally sound from the outside, has had several complaints lodged against it.

A nuisance complaint was filed back in 2007, court documents said, after an unidentified person reportedly “had to kill a raccoon on [Merrit’s] property.”

Merritt said there were no raccoons inside the house or on the property and said as much to village council: “Merrit defended, that unless the accuser was Daniel Boone and killed the raccoon with his bare hands, the accuser had to have shot off a firearm in village limits,” the court document states. Merritt was “ordered to leave the council meeting.”

The complaint resulted in a building inspection at which time Merritt hired a contractor to bring the house up to code.

Then in 2008, Merritt suffered a set-back during the housing market crash and a bank took ownership of the property in 2009. Merritt told the court the bank re-opened negotiations and he resumed ownership of the house in 2015.

However, the bank was never liable for up-keeping the property and neglect left the house with some damage, Merritt said. Shortly after taking possession of the house in 2015, Merritt said the village began inspecting the property for nuisance violations and complaints were made.

Merritt detailed the nature of the complaints in his civil protection order filed June 5 against the Village of Bloomingburg.

One complaint was that “opossums were homesteading on the property” and another was about holes in the garage on the property.

Merritt said he consulted with Fayette County building inspector Jay Myers and opted to tear down the garage because it was built in the 1800s and was too costly to repair. He decided to sell the antique timber to the Amish and returned one day with the Millers to find that the garage had been completely razed from the property. The village council had ordered the garage to be demolished on the complaints of an unidentified person, the court document states.

Merritt said another complaint on the garage was that someone “saw a cat come out” of it, but that allegedly occurred when the village council could not identify the complainant and had no evidence or photographs.

Then the village intended to demolish the house next, and the protection order states Merritt was “amazed that this action could be done…without due process.” He filed his appeal in the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas but said that afterwards the village removed the electric meter and water meter from the house.

In an interview last week, Merritt said, “The whole purpose of this article is not to injure the county or the court but to make people aware of the horrific hazards and unconstitutionality of nuisance laws. My due process has been completely ignored. Just because someone says it’s a nuisance, there’s no checks and balances and they can tear my house down?”

Abbott said the new agreement will give Merritt four months to fix the house and was passed by a motion during the village council meeting last Tuesday and signed by Bloomingburg Mayor Gayle Brown.

“Ultimately I think we came out to the best agreement because now all parties have a clear expectation,” said Abbott.

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Merrit’s house, located at 82 West St. in Bloomingburg, was in line for demolition with the Village of Bloomington.
http://www.recordherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/27/2017/09/web1_82WestStreet.jpgMerrit’s house, located at 82 West St. in Bloomingburg, was in line for demolition with the Village of Bloomington.
Terry Merritt filed a protection order against Village of Bloomingburg

By Ashley Bunton

abunton@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Ashley by calling her at (740) 313-0355 or by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton