The owner of the Clintonville Electric building on North High Street has until July 31 to correct code violations at the deteriorating property.

The owner of the Clintonville Electric building on North High Street has until July 31 to correct code violations at the deteriorating property.

In addition, according to a settlement agreement on file with the Franklin County Municipal Court Environmental Division, Phillip W. Karshner of the Northwest Side is to maintain the property in compliance with all applicable city codes thereafter. He also is required to pay court costs.

"If the orders are not complied with by that date (July 31), the city can submit that the owner is in contempt and at that point, the court will impose daily fines which can range from $50 to $250," Clintonville community liaison Isom Nivins wrote in an e-mail to Clintonville Area Commission member Sarah Snyder, whose District 2 includes the building.

Karshner, 75, the stepson of the founder of what was once a thriving appliance business in the heart of Clintonville, did not respond to a request for comment.

The increasingly dilapidated structure, which stretches from 3367 to 3383 N. High St. and includes a former dance studio and the old Clintonville Theatre, has been a growing sore point for many in the community.

"Obviously there's been concern over the appearance of the building, especially the last couple of weeks," Snyder said. "Significant amounts of tagging have appeared. I think a lot of people in the community would desire to see something happen with that property."

"It's a big detriment and an eyesore," said Lou Slowek, owner of the nearby Curiosity Shop jewelry store.

"That's exactly what I hear from residents and what I hear from shopkeepers along High Street, that it's an eyesore," District 3 CAC representative Clare Balombin said. "Everybody believes it's an eyesore. What to do about it is another question.

"The owner needs to be taken to court," she added. "We, as in the commissioners, have complained to the city. It's in very bad shape, and we've heard no plans from preservationists to do anything about it. Something has to be done."

The owner was being taken to court for an April 20 hearing over charges filed Jan. 14 by a city building investigator when the settlement agreement was conveyed to Judge Harland H. Hale's court, according to his chief environmental specialist, Bryan Wagner. The agreement then was crafted into a court order, Wagner said.

In it, the parties agree that Karshner owns the property and that it is a "public nuisance," as well as setting the deadline for compliance.

Assistant city attorney Jody Spurlock represented Columbus while Karshner appeared on his own behalf, Wagner said.

The charges that led to the agreement, Department of Building and Zoning Services spokeswoman Linda LaCloche said last week, stem from a visual inspection conducted from the exterior of the structure in June 2009.

In those charges, city building investigator Robert Williams stated that he found the building to be in the "beginning stages of deterioration due to failed or neglected maintenance," Wagner said, reading from the documents.

As a result of the visual inspection, LaCloche said, an order was issued on the property for maintenance issues. In spite of some contact with the owner, she said that no action was taken to resolve the problems, so the next step was to turn it over to the department's court liaison.

Numerous issues cited with building

Problems observed by the building inspector, LaCloche said, included part of the rubber roof being missing, allowing water to leak into the building, broken masonry, a dilapidated steel fire escape at the rear and an interior fire hazard due to too many items being stored in one room.

That's nothing, according to the Curiosity Shop's Slowek, who said that only his business and a job-training operation at North High Street and North Broadway remain in the entire block.

"It has been a struggle basically because of the condition of the block," Slowek said. "When I first got here (six years ago) we would complain and they did something. It has been getting worse and worse. The complaints aren't doing any good.

"We've had water problems that have actually come over into my store," Slowek added. "My whole air duct system came down and hit the floor, and we found that basically it was water coming in from the old Clintonville Electric building."

The police have been called to deal with break-ins and there is a "huge" puddle in the middle of what was once the Clintonville Electric showroom from water dripping down from the second floor, the jewelry store owner said.

"It's really a shame because the faade on that theater is really fantastic," Slowek said. "Just to see everything go to hell is sad. It really is."

A vacant or abandoned building draws graffiti like moths to a flame, according to CAC District 7 representative Dave Southan, the safety liaison.

"It sure does," he said. "There's nobody around to stop them.

"I've said for years that graffiti in Clintonville creates a situation that people feel they have a lot of crime in the neighborhood, gangs roaming the street," Southan added. "It's the ruination of a good community, really."

Clintonville Electric was founded in 1939. Karshner sold the business launched by his stepfather to three new owners in 2004, and they promptly relocated it, still under the same name, to a former Rite Aid drugstore on Bethel Road.

Clintonville Electric went out of business in early October 2008 when a handwritten sign that said "Closed Until Further Notice" appeared in the window of the Bethel Road store.

Karshner told The Columbus Dispatch at the time that the business had gone into bankruptcy, although the only remaining partner of the original three who purchased it four years earlier could not be reached for comment.

The Franklin County Auditor's Office website states that the original part of the building was constructed in 1920 and that 3367 N. High St. has a total square footage of 4,496. The total value of the land and structure is listed as $154,000. Other sections of the structure are of more recent vintage and have a variety of valuations.

The page includes a link to any improvements made to 3367 N. High.

A click on that link produces:

"There is no improvement information for this parcel."