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Trice v. City of Pine Bluff

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

November 29, 2017



          Willard Proctor, Jr., P.A., by: Willard Proctor, Jr., for appellant.

          Althea Hadden-Scott, for appellee.

          BART F. VIRDEN, JUDGE.

         Garland Trice appeals the Jefferson County Circuit Court's decision finding him guilty of violating City of Pine Bluff Ordinance section 16-1(b)(1), Failure to Remove or Abate a Nuisance. Trice was assessed a $1000 fine and sentenced to 30 days' jail time, suspended contingent upon razing the property. We affirm.

         Trice is the designated agent for Medic Transport, which is the owner of the "Sahara Temple" located at 620 South Main Street in Pine Bluff's historic district. On July 25, 2014, part of the third-floor roof of the Sahara Temple collapsed. Trice was out of the state at the time, but he immediately asked an associate to assess the damage. Trice also engaged the services of Keith Fix, a principal engineer at Red Pepper Consulting, Inc., who assessed the state of the building. In the letter dated July 31, 2014, Fix explained that part of the third-floor roof had collapsed likely due to the failure of the weakened trusses. The walls that were not fully attached to the roof remained standing, while the walls that were in the path of the shifting roof collapsed. Fix opined that there was no immediate danger of total collapse, but he recommended closing off traffic in front of the building to the centerline of the roadway until demolition of the collapsed area was complete, and he suggested that Trice take mitigating measures regarding the remaining roof. Fix also recommended that access to the perimeter surrounding the building should be restricted.

         Trice received a letter from the Department of Inspection and Zoning (Inspection and Zoning) dated August 4, 2014, in which he was informed that he was in violation of Ordinance No. 6042 section 102.2, which sets forth that "the owner or the owner's designated agent shall be responsible for the maintenance of buildings, structures and premises." The letter informed Trice that he was expected to have the property rehabilitated or demolished according to the required timeframes regarding "major" and "minor" violations. A City of Pine Bluff Inspection Department building inspection report also dated August 4, 2014, described fifteen "major" structural issues. Trice was informed that he must obtain permits to either repair or demolish the building and that failure to repair or demolish would result in the presentation to the Pine Bluff City Council (the City Council) of a resolution declaring the property a nuisance and ordering its abatement. The Inspection and Zoning letter provided that Trice may appeal a declaration of nuisance status at the planning and development meeting.

         On September 8, 2014, Trice submitted a "Plan for Addressing 620 Main Natural Disaster (Collapse)" to Inspection and Zoning. Trice explained that this was a "cursory" plan and that a "more comprehensive plan will be provided when we get additional information from the structural engineer and architect." In a letter dated September 10, 2014, Mitzi Ruth of Inspection and Zoning responded, reminding Trice that "when your contracts with the structural engineer, and architect, are completed, we ask to be provided with the documents and plans involving both parties for review within our department. Once approved, necessary permits will be issued."

         On September 14, 2014, the Pine Bluff City Council (City Council) voted to amend ordinance 16-1. The amendment to section (b)(1) made it a misdemeanor offense to fail to abate a nuisance, and it also allowed the imposition of a fine of up to $1000 and detainment in the county jail for up to 180 days.

         In a letter dated November 3, 2014, Inspection and Zoning informed Trice that this was his final notice of condemnation and that a hearing on whether to order removal of the structure would be held on December 1, 2014. On November 4, 2014, Trice faxed Inspection and Zoning a one-page outline of his plan to renovate the building:

Phase I
1. Clean and remove debris from 7th Avenue
2. Bring North West wall down to 2nd level
3. Bring North West wall down to 2nd level alone with West wall
4. Salvage roof material
5. Asbestos assessment
6. Secure remaining roof
7. Weatherize windows
Phase II
1. Replace roof
2. Rehab exterior of building
Phase III
1. Remodel first ...

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