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Judge rules rental owner waited too long

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The owner of three Clarksburg rental properties demolished because of alleged code violations waited too long to challenge the validity of the city's building ordinances, Harrison County Circuit Judge James A. Matich has ruled.

Property owner Gregory Hall's suit, filed in 2012, had challenged the validity of the city's building code, whether it was properly enacted and conformed to state regulations, and if its enforcement is arbitrary and discriminatory. Also named as plaintiffs were a handful of businesses Hall owns or has an interest in; among them: EMT Properties Inc.; Old Home Properties; Elizabeth Realty; Hall Brothers and Hallsey's Realty.

Hall contends the city's regulations “impermissibly deviate” from the state building code, that enforcement was arbitrary and that the city had not filed proper notice of changes to its ordinance with the state.

Court records indicate Hall had received substantial notice of deficiencies code officers found in the three demolished properties: he was given two years to bring two of the properties into compliance and two additional 20-day extensions for a third. The board ultimately upheld demolition orders for all three properties, indicating that in at least one case “the work had not been completed and the work that had been completed was sub-standard.”

In his ruling, released Aug. 18, Matich pointed out Hall's procedural complaints were too vague and that the city had incurred substantial expense in enforcing the ordinances, as had property owners into bringing structures into compliance. He said public policy precludes challenging an ordinance on procedural grounds after such a long period of time, noting Hall had waited almost four years to challenge amendments giving the city more flexibility to recover the demolition costs from the property owner and that he'd waited more than eight years to challenge changes that allowed the city to increase penalties for non-compliance. 

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