The structure at 3003 Anderson Avenue in Plaza West suffered significant damage as a result of the Labor Day flood of Wildcat Creek, photographed by city code officials during their inspections. (Courtesy of the City of Manhattan)
After nearly a year with little to no progress to renovate or demolish and no communication from the owner, the City of Manhattan will hold a hearing September 3 on the safety of a Plaza West building damaged in the Labor Day flood of Wildcat Creek.
Code officials say that 3003 Anderson Avenue — formerly home to the Golden Wok Buffet, La Hacienda and other businesses — has mold and rotting food that was washed around the premises still inside among other forms of deterioration and pest infestation. The building was inundated with an average of seven feet of water during the flash flooding event that displaced 300 residents and caused around $17 million in damage.
“It’s a health hazard and a hazard for our whole community,” Commissioner Linda Morse says.
Multiple buildings in Plaza West were inundated during 2018’s flash flooding incident, which resulted in around 7 feet filling 3003 Anderson. (Courtesy of the City of Manhattan)
Deputy Building Official Darren Emery says no efforts to repair or demolish the building have occurred and the owner, Mark Samarrai of S&S Real Estate Development, has not responded to notices and letters nor efforts to discuss a plan of action to repair/demolish or clean up the exterior of the building with city officials. After multiple attempts dating to September of 2018, code officials delivered a final notice on May 17, 2019 that if no action was taken that further enforcement would be taken.
Emery says they’ve heard “almost radio silence.
“We have hand delivered these notices, because we are able to get in touch with the owner that way,” says Emery. “We have hand delivered them and asked that he contact myself — I’ve issued many of these notices — I have not heard a word.”
As the building suffered substantial damage — which is defined federally as having sustained damage which would cost 50 percent of the value of the property to repair or having been damaged in multiple flooding incidents in the past 10 years that cost 25 percent of the property value to repair — the building would have to be modified to abide by current regulated elevations or be flood proofed (which is permissible in commercial properties in the 1 percent floodplain).
At the hearing September 3, code services and the owner, their agent, and/or any lienholders will have the opportunity to present a case on the safety of the structure to the city commission. Based on the evidence presented, the city will make a ruling on the building’s safety; under state law, if they find the structure unsafe they can order it be repaired or demolished. After a time frame set by the commission, if the owner takes still takes no action then the city can have it razed.
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi says they have to make sure they don’t encourage others to do similar things following disasters.
“Because this is taxpayer money that we’re using for this,” says Reddi. “So I want us to keep close tabs on how we’re doing this with the public hearing and still continue to press the property owner to come to the table to have that discussion.”
Demolition costs are estimated around $150,000, and after the city sells materials for salvage the city can charge the difference to the owner. If the owner does not pay, they can file additional action through the courts to assess the cost to the owner through their taxes.
Commissioner Wynn Butler says they do need to do something about the property and have the hearing, but says the owner may not have many options as the state doesn’t allow FEMA money to be used on commercial properties.
“The $150,000 it might cost us to demolish it is much less than what we paid for residential properties that got flooded that we bought out,” says Butler. “That’s just another way of looking at it, the businesses have no safety net, the residential properties do.”
Commissioner Jerred McKee says he hopes the owner will come to the hearing.
“Even if we don’t have a buyout process for commercial properties, the city can’t work with you if you refuse to talk to the city.”
KMAN spoke to Samarrai via phone Wednesday, he declined to comment.
Taken Tuesday, July 16, 2019 from the doorway of Golden Wok Buffet 3003 Anderson. (Brandon Peoples/KMAN)