In what some might call a stroke of bureaucratic genius, Takoma Park city officials last week found a way to speed up the demolition of an abandoned house by simply giving the city administrator the added role of fire marshal.
For the past year, the house, divided into apartments, at 7709 Carroll Ave., has stood abandoned, its windows missing, yard overgrown and open doors beckoning to neighborhood Tom Sawyers.
City housing inspectors have found numerous housing code violations at the building, and the property owner, James T. Kelly, has not brought it up to code, according to city reports.
The mayor and City Council condemned the building last April. Last month, the council decided to demolish the structure, unless federal money became available for the city to restore and sell the house. City Clerk Sybil Pusti said the extra money seems unlikely.
To raze the building, however, would require five separate ordinances, with a multitude of public hearings along the way, Pusti said.
As a shortcut, the council last week appointed City Administrator Alvin Nichols as the city fire marshal, a position that allows Nichols to declare the house a safety hazard, Pusti said. The council's action eliminated the need for adhering to three of the ordinances, leaving it to enact only two laws and to hold fewer hearings.
The council also decided to permit a group of residents from the Carroll and Flower avenues area to plant a garden on city-owned land. The plot has been designated to become an extension of Lake Avenue but remains untouched by pavement.
Most of the meeting was spent considering court action and administrative appeals that residents hope will reverse the county school board's decision to close Takoma Park Junior High School.
City Attorney Vincent Gingerich, acting for Save Our Community School Committee, a group of city residents, filed suit last week in county circuit court, charging the school board's decision ignored racial and ethnic diversity of the school.