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Union: City Moves Toward Litigation for Nuisance Property Cleanup

By Karen Butterfield, Union Missourian Editor​ ​ ​

Summonses have been issued to two property owners for violations of the city’s nuisance ordinance.

The action by the city came after more than a year of unsuccessful efforts for the owners to clean up the properties or to allow the city to begin abatement measures. The board of aldermen declared the properties nuisance properties late in 2016.

The properties are located at 1711 E. Highway 50, which is owned by Reba Wittenborn, and 1200 Riverview Drive, which is owned by Joseph Cojocaru and Sorin Cojocaru.

The Wittenborn property was under contract to be sold, but it is no longer under contract.

City Administrator Russell Rost said there has been no new contact from either party.

At one time, the Highway 50 site was used as a mobile home storage and repair business. The business owners have not had a license to operate for several years.

The Highway 50 property was “grandfathered,” in, or allowed to remain a nonconforming business when the zoning changed, but when the business license wasn’t renewed, the grandfather status was lost.

When the city first began looking at it, a mobile home on the site was being used as a residence, but it is not connected to city water and sewer. The mobile home was wired to a house on the property for a power supply. There were several other mobile homes still on the lot, as well as two tractor-trailers.

The Cojocaru property was once operating as DBA Unlimited Works, which had a license to operate an auto repair shop there. Instead, salvage work was conducted, which is not permitted in that zoning district.

Rost said the city was unaware of the situation at the property until complaints were filed. The property owner said the property has been in disrepair for a number of years.

Both property owners have been asked to sign an agreement to allow the city or a contractor access to the property for abatement, but neither have agreed to sign the forms, Rost said.

Without a court order or consent agreements, the city plans to move toward litigation, with a possible request for an injunction.

An injunction is a court order that requires parties to continue, or cease, particular actions. Failure to comply with an injunction may result in fines, arrest, or prison time, depending on the situation.

“We’re still hoping that at some point the property owners reach out to the city and enter into an agreement to resolve the issues,” Rost said.

A third property declared a nuisance was purchased from the homeowner earlier this year and returned to green space.

Rost said this is not the first time a nuisance issue has come up, but typically owners clean up their property before additional legal action is taken.

“This is the first time we’ve had to go through the board of aldermen declaring them nuisance property and then taking additional legal steps to get them cleaned up,” Rost noted.