City to seize pension to pay for demolition

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

City officials are using a new weapon to tear down a blighted building: seizing the pension fund of its former owner.

“This should show how much we are willing to do to abate nuisances in this city,” Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said. “Slum landlords should recognize we will not stop.”

The building is at 3053 Monroe St., across from Swayne Field. It has housed a variety of businesses, from county welfare offices to an appliance store, but now is a vacant hulk, its windows smashed out and 40-ounce malt-liquor bottles littering its inner halls.

It is on the city’s “Dirty Dozen” list of blighted properties.

Nearly a year ago, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates ordered the owner, Dr. Sheldon Schachner, 67, to clean up the property. The city’s projected cost of the cleanup is $297,000.

Dr. Schachner, an ear, nose, and throat specialist who has owned the building on and off since the 1970s, forfeited it to the city in November because of nonpayment of taxes. But he is legally obligated to pay for razing the building. He claimed he couldn’t provide the $297,000 because he had very little income and his “wife takes care of everything” financially, according to court documents.

City prosecutors pointed to his $600,000 pension fund. On Jan. 19, Judge Richard McQuade ruled that the money could be seized to pay for the demolition.

Yesterday, the city filed a writ to seize the money. The mayor said the action is a signal of how far the city will go to demolish blighted properties.

“We will not let slum landlords falsely claim poverty,” Mr. Finkbeiner said. “We will find you, and you will pay.”

City attorney John Madigan said Dr. Schachner has until Feb. 18 to appeal. The doctor’s attorney, Harland Britz, said he would appeal because the pension plan is federally protected. “This is a benefits plan that cannot be attached” to pay for the demolition, Mr. Britz said.

Dr. Schachner did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The doctor has a history of leaving his properties in less-than-perfect condition.

He is a part owner of the AP Parts complex, which has become an illegal dump site at 600 Bassett St.; the city is trying to enforce a 1996 court ruling that awarded it $400,000 for cleanup.

In 1997, he was fined $25,000 and put on probation for three years when a jury found him guilty of storing hazardous waste on his property at 2221 Lorle St.

He was found guilty of failing to comply with an order from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to test several drums of waste on the property. The Lucas County Court of Appeals rejected his appeal of that conviction Friday.