City orders fire-damaged home to be demolished

An abatement hearing was held Wednesday, January 18th, 2023, to address the ongoing code violations at 205 West Lincoln. 

In July 2022, the house and garage at that address suffered extensive fire damage. Approximately 45 days later on September 7, an abatement hearing was held and the owner of the property, James Ray Fitzpatrick, was present. Nikki Howard, Urban Development Director, gave Fitzpatrick 5 days to secure the property and 10 days to clean up trash and debris. She said he had 30 days to have a letter from the insurance company stating he would rebuild, or the house would be demolished. City Inspector Mark Stephens said that the entire back half of the house would have to be demolished if the home was to be rebuilt.

However, nearly a month later, the property was not secured, and trash and debris still filled the backyard. On October 5, 2022, the Sapulpa Times photographed the condition of the property and subsequently spoke to Nikki Howard and Mark Stephens, informing them of the status of 205 West Lincoln.

Nikki Howard said the City was waiting on a letter from the property owner’s insurance company. Stephens immediately spoke up and said that he had received an email the day before from the insurance company stating they were “paying the claim.” Stephens was asked if that meant the property was going to be restored, and Stephens replied that would be up to the homeowner.

Sapulpa Times was then told that a letter would be sent out giving Mr. Fitzpatrick another 30 days to either obtain a construction permit or a demolition permit. Stephens also said he would contact Fitzpatrick about the two conditions that had not yet been met.

Daryl Howard, who lives across the street from the burned-out home, told the Sapulpa Herald that demolition work began on approximately November 20, 2022, and ended in December 2022.

It should be noted that the demolition work performed did not comply with instructions set forth by the City Inspector.

The Sapulpa Herald went to the City Inspector’s office to ask why Fitzpatrick was still not in compliance. Stephens was not in the office, but his assistant left a message for Stephens who, along with Code Enforcement Officer Nick Erickson, went back to 205 West Lincoln, resulting in the January hearing for the property owner.

Nick Erickson addressed Nikki Howard, stating: “The property condition as of 1/17: no changes in regard to dilapidation. Mr. Stephens and I have met with the property owner over there on numerous occasions to discuss what needs to be done to bring it into compliance.”

Nikki Howard’s response was: “what bothers me about this is that worse than the dilapidation is the nuisance it’s become to that neighborhood.”

She then asked if there was anyone who wished to speak regarding the property.

Sand Howard speaks at the abatement hearing about the house at 205 W. Lincoln Ave.

Sandi Howard, who lives at 126 West Lincoln, went to the podium and explained the situation from the neighborhood’s point of view. She lamented how beautiful the house in question had been for nearly a century and expressed frustration about the lack of a timely remedy to the problem.

The Sapulpa Herald interviewed Daryl Howard, Sandi’s husband, after the hearing. He expressed concern for the people that were going in and out of the damaged structure. “Everybody has been wary of the traffic, day and night, in and out, bicycles in the dark, with no lights and no reflectors, people going back and forth with luggage…I have called the police many times about what I call scavengers at 205 after it burned.”

The property owner, James Ray Fitzpatrick, and Floyd Thomas stepped up to the podium. Thomas, who stated he took care of Fitzpatrick’s properties, told Nikki Howard: ”What I’m trying to do is get somebody to let me put a roof back on the house. I have got some guys that’s gonna put a roof on there for us….I thought I had it secured with boards all over it where kids can’t get in it…I did clean up the outside trash and stuff…I would like someone, to you know, give us the go-ahead where we could put a roof on the house.”

Mark Stephens immediately responded: “Mr. Fitzpatrick was told that you have to remove the roof completely, none of the roof structure is allowed to remain. You have to remove the whole back section of the house, all the walls have to come down, everything has to go. You can keep the front couple of rooms that have no fire damage. Any wood that has any fire damage on it whatsoever has to be removed.”

Thomas then asked Stephens if he had seen the property lately, “I have seen it multiple times,” replied Stephens.

Thomas asked for guidance on what needs to be done to comply, and Stephens said he would meet him at the property to go over the instructions. Fitzpatrick then said he had a hearing aid and could not hear the conversation, Stephens acknowledged and spoke slowly and directly, reminding him that he and Fitzpatrick had had several conversations about what needed to be done to obtain a remodeling permit.

Nikki Howard then spoke to Fitzpatrick and Stephens: “I have a couple of things to say before you all make a deal. What percentage of that house is burned out? What is the percentage you think that has to be torn down?” Stephens replied that 60 to 70 percent of the house is gone. “So we are (swiftly) approaching the dilapidated stage, and we have been real, real patient with you. I feel horrible for your neighbors, I feel horrible about the condition you allow that house to be in. I feel badly that you let people come and go that have no business in there. To me, that house has become a nuisance, and it needs to be torn down, so you have 30 days to tear it down,” Nikki Howard sternly told Fitzpatrick.

Nikki Howard refused to hear anything else from Fitzpatrick about remodeling the property. “You have been saying that for months,” she said.

Fitzpatrick has ten days to file an appeal with the City Manager.