By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
A house located at 1849 Rochester Rd. in Addison Township has been order to be demolished within 60 days. The township board voted for the order, 7-0, at the Aug. 16 meeting, following a second public hearing on the matter.
The house was condemned on Sept. 2, 2020, after the township ordinance officer, Doug Lowe, found the building to be in violation of zoning ordinance Chapter 10, Article IV – Dangerous Buildings.
That morning, the fire department discovered the deceased body of the owner’s 61-year-old wife while performing a welfare check, The Oxford Leader reported at the time. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office estimated the woman had been deceased for three-to-five days before her body was discovered. The home was found to be infested with insects, and the Oakland County Animal Control removed a total of 11 pets, nine cats, one dog and one bird from the residence. Some 50 cats had been removed from the house a few year before, Oakland County Sheriff deputies said.
According to the notice Lowe issued to the owner, the ordinance violation was due to “extreme and hazardous internal living conditions” caused by the unattended body and “numerous cats occupying the structure resulting in unhealthy environment due to feces, etc.”
The notice ordered the owner, Frank (also known as Harry) Daley, 82, to bring the building into compliance within 10 days. A second notice was issued Nov. 2, 2020, after the issue had not been fixed.
In accordance with procedures laid out by the ordinance, a dangerous building hearing was held remotely Feb. 9, 2021. Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson appointed a non-employee of the township, Cosimio Lombardo, to serve as the hearing officer.
Lombardo concurred with the findings of ordinance officer Lowe, and determined the building fit two of nine criteria listed by the ordinance for what constitutes a dangerous building:
Sec. 10-91 (5) “Whenever for any reason the building or structure or any portion is manifestly unsafe for the purpose which it is used.”
And, Sec. 10-91 (7) “Whenever a building or structure used or intended to be used for dwelling purposes is unsanitary or unfit for human habitation or is in a condition that is likely to cause sickness or disease when so determined by the health officer/environmental consultant or is likely to injure the health, safety or general welfare of those living within.”
Lomardo ordered the building to be demolished within 60 days. Since Daley did not demolish the building within that timeframe, the case went to the township board. A public hearing was held May 17, and the board voted to accept the results of the dangerous building hearing and have the building demolished within 60 days.
However, Daley, who now lives in Plymouth, was not in attendance since he did not receive notice of the meeting in time. The notice sat in the Detroit Post Office for a few weeks after it was sent by certified mail, according to Supervisor Pearson. That’s why a second public hearing was held, Aug. 16, to give Daley a chance to address the board.
“The purpose of the hearing is to let (Daley) come forward and show why the dangerous board conclusions were wrong,” explained Addison Township’s attorney, Robert Davis. “So this isn’t a re-hearing of the dangerous board hearing. This is a show-cause where you are able to come before the township board and show cause why the dangerous board findings were incorrect.”
Daley was distraught. He told the board that he couldn’t clean up after the cats or check on his wife because he was sick for about six weeks and could barely move. “I couldn’t check on her for a while, I was sick myself. I was in the living room and she was in the bedroom. We had been arguing. She overdoes it with the opiates. I tried to get her to stop. I couldn’t get her to stop. She overdid it.”
After the building was condemned, Daley hired a cleaning company, Atlas Restoration and Cleaning. Daley said they started working on the basement, but the township wouldn’t let them finish. “I can’t understand what the problem is. Then they wouldn’t let me do anything.”
Doug Lowe, the building official, explained his findings to the board. “I think everyone appreciates Mr. Daley’s situation and we’re very compassionate about that. But, I base my decision and position not entirely just on my observation, but I have three professionals here that reviewed the structure and all three of them say the same thing: it cannot be salvaged.”
Those three professionals were the assistant fire chief, and the owners of Hunter Pest Control and Atlas Restoration – both companies Daley hired. The owner of Atlas would not go back into the building and said it needed to be demolished, Lowe said.
“The reason it’s not salvageable is because it’s been such an extended period of time that the structure is literally saturated with feces and urine and everything else. Makes it uninhabitable.”
Interrupting, Daley insisted he could have it cleaned up by replacing the carpet and taking other measures.
“We’re working on behalf of you also,” Pearson said to Daley. “We’re concerned about you and your health also. We can’t let you live back in there under those conditions.”
Lowe confirmed that there had also been flooding in the basement, where he found floating cat carcasses. “I’ve been doing this for over 40 years and this is the worst situation I have ever seen,” he said. “It is my professional opinion that this structure is just not salvageable, for a variety of reasons. Roof leaking, the structure is in a terrible state of disrepair, not to mention all the other things that transpired in there with the animals. . .”
During public comment for the hearing, Toney Aubrey, who lives next door to the property spoke. “Needless to say, it’s a serious situation and all the neighbors are very concerned about the health and wellbeing of this gentleman and we just feel that it’s not livable,” he said.
The board’s demolition order gives Daley 60 days from the date of the hearing – until October 15 – to “obtain necessary permits and demolish the structure in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and local ordinances. If the demolition work is not done, the township shall undertake the demolition and the contractor shall lien the property for the amounts expended and place the same amount on the tax roll for this parcel to ensure that the township is made whole.”
Pearson instructed Daley to contact the building official to obtain the proper permits.
By James Hanlon