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‘Yellow house’ on Middletown square updated after complaints

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/19/19

The “yellow house” on the square won’t be yellow for much longer.

Work is ongoing on what is also known as the “house on the square” at 415 N. Union St. after the …

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‘Yellow house’ on Middletown square updated after complaints

Posted

The “yellow house” on the square won’t be yellow for much longer.

Work is ongoing on what is also known as the “house on the square” at 415 N. Union St. after the owner twice was cited by Middletown officials.

Gray siding now covers the Union Street side of the structure, and the front facing Main Street has some work done as well.

For the past several months during borough council meetings, Mayor James H. Curry III has asked Zoning & Codes Officer Al Geosits what is being done about the house.

The property is owned by John L. Webster, according to the Dauphin County Recorder of Deeds, who purchased the house for $100,000 from John Moore Jr. and Heide Moore in 1997. The recorder lists his address as 415 N. Union St. 

Webster has been cited twice by the borough, once in October 2018 and again in March. Those citations list his address as  a post office box in Landisburg.

“I don’t really care what they do, but they need to do something and become compliant. I mean, this has been going on for way too long,” Council President Angela Lloyd said during the March 19 meeting before Webster was cited. “It’s not our job to fix it for them or to figure out how they should fix it. They need to do it. They have had plenty of time to do it.”

Both times, Webster was cited for protective treatment violations, or having rotting wood on the front and side porches, second story deck railing, and stairway to the deck.

Webster did not respond to requests for comment by the Press & Journal.

According to the citation, the borough has requested $1,091.25 in fines and court costs. Webster was scheduled for a summary trial in May, but it was continued to Sept. 5.

During the April 16 council meeting, Geosits said the contractor, B&K Construction Services based out of Elizabethtown, was beginning work on the siding.

“It might take the rest of the summer before they get the whole building buttoned up,” Geosits said.

The carriage house on the rear of the property was torn down. Geosits said that area is going to require additional preparations for the siding, and work needs to be done to straighten and support the balcony and stairs before the siding can be completed.

According to Geosits, there are three apartments in the building, and in April 2018, he said he thought the house was vacant.

In April 2018, Geosits told the council that staff was examining property maintenance issues on Main Street from Nissley Street east to Vine Street.

The yellow house, he said, was the first property that staff looked at.

“There’s a gray portion that has like asphalt siding or asphalt exterior on it, and there’s a large hole in the back of it. Stairs in the back have collapsed, and the door is falling off. It’s in really bad shape,” Geosits said.

Curry, who lives about a block away on North Union Street, frequently inquired about the status of the property during borough council meetings.

By fall of last year, the carriage house was torn down, and the owners took down the ivy that covered the side of the house. Work was completed on the front porch.

Webster was cited for the first time in October, and he pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a total of $390.25 in fines and court costs.

But it appears that the issue wasn’t wholly resolved because Curry raised the issue again at the March 19 meeting before Webster was cited on March 27, saying there hasn’t been a lot of activity since the porch repairs.

During the meeting, Geosits said there were two partners in the property, and one of them was interested in repairing the roof first and the other wanted to repair the exterior.

Additionally, Geosits said the borough Historical Restoration Commission was interested in having the owner repaint the outside of the house instead of installing siding.

Curry said he wasn’t in favor of the commission asking the owners to paint the side of the house. It’s missing siding from where the carriage house was torn down, he pointed out.

“How are you going to patch that when they don’t make that siding anymore? It’s probably asbestos-laced siding too,” Curry said.

He said he didn’t care if the owners addressed the sides or the roof first.

“In my opinion, we need to issue a deadline to [the owner] because I don’t think it’s right that they were cited in ’18, we’re going to go through all of ’19 and this isn’t going to be done. It’s a rental property. They were making money off of it for years and years and years. Nobody cited them. It’s in disrepair. They should’ve maintained it, and now it’s time to fix it,” Curry said.

He said he sympathized with the difficulty of Geosits’ job, adding that with Geosits’ help, the council has done a “great job” working to address blighted properties in the borough.

Although the owners have been cited in the past and made an effort, because Geosits wasn’t pressing them anymore, they took a foot when he gave them an inch, Curry said.

“It’s going to continue. That’s why it’s in the condition it is now to begin with — because they took several inches and got several meters because no one ever addressed this issue. We’re now doing it. They need to be cited again,” Curry said.