By David Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - "The trial court did not err in ordering the demolition of rat- and snake-infested structures filled with several years’ worth of raw sewage and which border occupied homes." Judge Joseph M. Cosgrove wrote in a 14 page opinion and order filed on Monday by a three-judge panel, regarding three properties at North Race and West Coal Streets in Shenandoah borough
The panel upheld an injunction issued by Schuylkill County Judge Charles M. Miller, which was filed March 4, 2016 and ordered the property owner, Carlos M. Cruz, Hazleton, to demolish the property immediately.
Shenandoah borough filed suit against Cruz in December, 2015, following several complaints to borough council by concerned citizens. The borough alleged in the lawsuit that the property was in violation of the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act and the Borough Code.
Cosgrove noted that, while a mandatory injunction is a drastic legal action, it was necessary in the situation.
"When it is determined that a public nuisance exists, the courts should not devise a remedy harsher than the minimum necessary to properly abate the nuisance. The remedy selected to abate the nuisance should not be punitive; rather, it should be shaped to correspond to the nature and extent of the nuisance. The radical remedy of demolition should only be used when there exists no other practical alternative." Cosgrove wrote.
The property was previously owned by Cruz's brother and sister-in-law, who had been found guilty of ordinance violations concerning the property.
"The nature of the offense is described in the citation as involving 'dangerous buildings that are declared to be a nuisance that the owner has failed to repair, vacate, or demolish after receiving letter.'" Cosgrove wrote.
"It is likewise apparent Appellant was provided several opportunities to abate the nuisance conditions at the property and simply chose not to. Having spoken multiple times with the Borough manager in 2014 and represented his brother and sister-in-law in proceedings before the magisterial district judge, Appellant had clear knowledge of the conditions prior to his acquisition of the Race Street property in May 2015." Cosgrove continued.
The other members of the panel, who joined in the opinion were Judge Robert Simpson and Senior Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter