LIMA — The Lima Board of Building Appeals voted to accept a property maintenance violation Thursday after hearing from the trustee of the property owner.
The violation was issued Aug. 29 to Michael Muhammed and Benny Kariem, trustees of the Islam Life Center, 423 S. Collett St., after a neighbor reported seeing someone dumping a bucket of feces into a city wastewater drain. Muhammed issued an appeal to the violation on Sept. 9 through his attorney, Bruce French. The complaint issued to the city indicated that the person dumping the bucket was occupying the building. Lima property maintenance codes forbid someone from occupying a residence if water services are not turned on. According to city records, water has been turned off at the building since 2003.
In property maintenance code inspector Angie Rex’s summary, she wrote, “After receiving the complaint … (I) conducted an investigation and determined the structure was unsecure and without water service. I request the board uphold the property maintenance notice of violation.”
Rex filed a second violation against the property for not being secured. City code also requires property owners to secure a building if it is unoccupied. In effect, the two separate violations alerted property owners that they either had to have the water utilities turned on in order to be habitable, or boarded up and secured to keep people and animals out of the structure.
During the meeting, Rex told the board that she received the complaint on Aug. 23. She reported driving by the residence several times and witnessing someone on the property. She indicated she knew who Muhammed was, and that he was not the person she saw. She said she filed both violations in hope it would alert the property owner to contact city officials.
In his testimony, Muhammed said no one was residing at the building. He said doors were kept locked there. He also said that he is frequently at the center with others doing maintenance work in an effort to keep the dilapidated property from crumbling even further.
“It is always locked when we are not in there repairing something,” Muhammed said. He said at times they are there for 10 minutes, at other times for as long as an hour.
Board member Levi Collins asked Muhammed his plans for the building.
“Twenty years is a long time,” Collins said. “We both know that. Have you pursued funding to help make repairs? You have a building that has been sitting there, dilapidated.”
Muhammed said he was open to suggestions, and Collins responded by saying “we were hoping you would come in here with suggestions of what you might do.”
Muhammed told the board that he and a few others had gathered at the building on occasion for prayer, and some board members felt that met the requirements of the building being occupied. Shannon McAlister, an attorney representing Muhammed, said she believes an individual presence such as brief prayer was a stretch of the definition of occupancy.