Owners at Woodcliff Condominiums are expected to receive notices this week of the court-ordered sale of the property to the city of Whitehall.
The notices should come as no surprise, as the Woodcliff Condominium Unit Owners Association on May 14 voted 172-77 to accept Whitehall’s offer to buy the 317-unit complex at the northeast corner of North Hamilton Road and East Broad Street for $8.9 million.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Dan Hawkins ordered the sale Aug. 17, but the city did not publicly announce it until Aug. 21.
The order allows Whitehall to begin working with the court-appointed receiver -- the fourth different receiver -- on the transfer of the property, said Kaitlin King, a spokeswoman for the city.
“Franklin County Public Health is pleased that this case has been settled. The nuisance conditions at the property have continued to be unsafe and risked the health and safety of those who lived in and around the complex,” Joe Mazzola, Franklin County Health Commissioner, said in a press release announcing the order.
The order ends the city’s 11-year battle in the Environmental Division of Franklin County Municipal Court against Woodcliff Condominiums concerning its complaints about conditions there.
Whitehall first filed a complaint against Woodcliff Condominiums on July 12, 2007 seeking injunctive relief and on Feb. 4, 2008, an agreed entry declared the property a public nuisance.
City officials, while continuing to negotiate in court, said the property remained a source of code violations and generated a considerable number of calls for police service.
There were 856 calls for police service to the property in 2017, said city Development Director Zach Woodruff.
“Police were going there more than two times each day last year on average,” Woodruff said.
Whitehall City Council on June 26 formally approved the purchase agreement for Woodcliff Condominiums, and legislation appropriating money for the purchase is scheduled for a second reading at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, at Whitehall City Hall, 360 S. Yearling Road.
Three ordinances related to the purchase could be approved by emergency during the meeting, Woodruff said.
One ordinance appropriates $9 million for the purchase; the others appropriate $1 million and $725,000, respectively, all through the issuance of bonds, for associated costs.
“We expect a lot of expenses” associated with the purchase, Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard said.
These include, she said, continuing legal expenses for owners challenging court-ordered disbursements for those required to sell, and paying off parts of mortgages in some instances.
Individual owners will be paid for the units based on court-approved disbursements, said Joe Durham, an attorney with Eastman and Smith who has represented Whitehall in its action against Woodcliff Condominiums, but those amounts can yet be appealed.
“But the order allows us to begin the contract process (to purchase Woodcliff),” Woodruff said.
Whitehall will initiate workshops for tenants and owner-occupants to be scheduled on Whitehall taking ownership of the property, Woodruff said.
Woodruff estimated it would “take a few months” for the city to close on the property, after which the city would schedule meetings with tenants and owner-occupants.
“No one is being forced to move now,” said Woodruff, adding that existing leases will be honored and the city would cooperate with owners who need to relocate.
It’s too soon, Woodruff said, to discuss the city’s plans for the property, but added the city is pleased the issue is resolved and concurred with the order.
In his ruling, Hawkins wrote “history has shown there is no other viable way to enforce the court’s order to permanently abate the public nuisance conditions at Woodcliff Condominiums” than to order the sale of the entirety of the property to Whitehall.
Read more about this issue in the Aug. 30 edition of ThisWeek Whitehall News.