Targeted For Demolition

Highland Park town attorney Matthew Boyle describes a recent addition to the code of ordinances as a new tool in the town’s enforcement toolbox.

This one’s more like a backhoe or bulldozer than an Allen wrench.

It gives the Town Council the authority to hammer property owners who are slow to address dangerously substandard buildings – including houses – with demolition orders.

“It’s more powerful than writing a ticket, and it’s not as onerous as a lawsuit,” Boyle said.

The council adopted the change in May with a specific property in mind: a home at 4509 Mockingbird Lane.

“I’ve heard from neighbors that the property is in a state of degradation, that they are concerned about their property values and property safety,” said Kirk Smith, the town’s assistant director of town services and building official.

(Photos by William Taylor)

On June 10, the council gave Scott Brei 30 days to make substantial progress toward bringing his house into compliance. He’ll need to get an engineer’s report, take out building permits, and have a timeline for correcting deficiencies for the town to give him more time instead of taking further action.

Demolishing the building would cost an estimated $18,200, an amount the town would assess in the form of a lien on the property.

Town officials began investigating the property March 11, issued a notice of violations March 26, and asked Oncor to shut off power to the property on April 11. A wide range of issues include a bowing roof along with deteriorating walls and fencing in danger of collapse.

Council members expressed doubts about Brei’s ability to make repairs. He’s unemployed, has gone through federal bankruptcy proceedings, and is behind on child support payments, two mothers, including an ex-wife, told the council.

“I want to fix my home,” Brei told the council. “I’ve raised four children at this address.”

He said he would use insurance money, a loan, and/or assistance from family to make repairs.

“None of us like to see a citizen in this situation,” council member Craig Penfold said. “I’ve yet to see action begin, and that’s why we are here today.”

William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

5 thoughts on “Targeted For Demolition

  • June 19, 2019 at 12:52 am
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    I don’t know the journalist nor the homeowner referenced in the article, but I feel like there is some kind of animosity on the part of either the city or the paper. Why would you name and shame the homeowner in this way?

    Reply
  • June 20, 2019 at 6:13 pm
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    This person seems to be down on his luck. Can’t the community come together to assist him? This appears to be a beautiful home. Just because it’s in Highland Park does not mean neighbors and churches couldn’t pitch in and help with some of the projects. Remember, it could happen to you. Shame on HP for telling Oncor to turn off his power – that just makes things worse.

    Reply
  • June 22, 2019 at 10:42 pm
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    William Taylor should be ashamed. There’s no need to report on this kind of thing, but there is SERIOUSLY no need to name the homeowner. This is not respectable journalism.

    Reply
  • June 30, 2019 at 10:35 am
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    No one can be down on their luck for over the time he had lived in that house. When your “unlucky” life starts to effect your neighborhood and neighbors then that’s when you should figure out your next plan. That house is a fire hazard there’s holes in the side of the walls, missing bricks that’s connect to the roof, rat infestations, mosquitoes that are not treated that directly effect others,missing fence in the backyard, a huge oak tree that’s on the guest house in risk of falling into the back of the neighbors yard. He had 12 garage sales 1 almost every weekend, strangers would intrude to his neighbors looking for his junk sale, he ran a used car lot on the front of the house strange men would knock on his neighbors door looking to test drive! That oak tree fell on the power lines on March causing 49 homes to be without power oncor came at 2 in the morning to cut away at a tree that should have been kept up along with that house. The condition of this house is a direct reflection of the owner and has nothing to do with Luck. I have been homeless, I have been down on my luck but certainly I got a job and worked by butt off to be where I am. This is not about the homeowners character God will deal with that this is about the disruption of the house and the direct treat it imposes to all the tax paying citizens who work their butt off and try to make it in the best community in the world.

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  • June 30, 2019 at 1:34 pm
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    Why does he just not sell it and rent or buy a more substantial home. That’s what people do. I can’t afford to move to Beverly Hills CA and expect my neighbors to help me pay my mortgage. There’s no instant gratification. It’s called living within your means and working your tail off. To the person that said let’s give him money how about let’s give his ex wife, single mother some money to help with the expensive of raising a child on her own, while a grown man walks away, doesn’t sell his monster house that he has equity in so he doesn’t have to pay her. That’s the real person in need.

    Reply

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