BLIGHT: It’s ugly: the process and the property

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A Centerville resident brought to our attention abandoned mobile homes located at a main entrance into the Richmond community last week. This is at the corner of U.S. 35 and Salisbury Road North.
The resident utilized the contact information for the city’s code enforcement division, recently reported in the Western Wayne News, to report it to the proper authorities. However, it got our attention and we wanted to pursue it further.
It became clear this is yet another complicated property to get cleaned up because of the overlap in jurisdictions, out-of-state ownership, a local contract buyer and pending criminal charges against one of the stakeholders.
The property address is 2800 N. US Hwy 35, Richmond. The 3.023-acre diagonally-shaped lot borders Hwy 35, but also borders Salisbury Road. The abandoned mobile homes are parked at the very front of the property and, to the complainant’s point, create an unsightly view for drivers entering Richmond’s northwest side from Hwy 35.
According to Beacon, Wayne County’s public property record indicates the property is owned by Palm Harbor Villages Inc., c/o Home Sweet Home Development Inc., mailed to 3244 Salisbury Road North, Richmond.
Palm Harbor Villages, Inc. is registered on the Indiana Secretary of State’s website as a Foreign For-Profit Corporation, mailed to 3636 N Central Ave., Suite 1200, Phoenix, AZ, 85012. The record also indicates it was formed March 11, 2011, in Delaware.
Home Sweet Home Development Inc., according to the Secretary of State site, is registered to Home Sweet Home Developments Inc. with a Principal Office Address of 1015 N. J Street, Richmond. It reveals the Incorporator is Matthew Jennings, mailing address 3274 Salisbury Road N, Richmond. It also says the president is Matthew J Jennings, mailing address 3244 Salisbury Road N., Richmond.
According to the Articles of Incorporation, Home Sweet Home Development was registered in 2019 and the principal office address was 3244 Salisbury Road N., Richmond.
When the business entity report was filed again in 2021, the principal office address was listed as 1015 N. J Street, Richmond; however, Matthew J. Jennings is still listed as president with an address of 3244 Salisbury Road North. Matthew Jennings is listed as Incorporator, 3274 Salisbury Road N., Richmond. Matthew J Jennings is the signatory on this document as Incorporator.
While the point of this information is not to sort out the legal differences between the corporate name “Development” ending in an “s” or not, or whether the middle initial is inconsistently used, this information becomes important because of one of the mailing addresses on Salisbury Road.
As of March 18, 2019, the Beacon website indicates Palm Harbor Villages Inc was sold to Palm Harbor Villages Inc, with the transaction being recorded as a contract sale.
According to the Wayne County Treasurer’s office, the last time taxes were paid on this lot of abandoned mobile homes, considered vehicles under Indiana law, was October 2021 for the spring taxes of 2021. That payment included the name of Matt Jennings.
The 2019 property card indicates the mailing address for 2800 N US Hwy 35 began being mailed to Home Sweet Home at 3244 N. Salisbury Road, Richmond, that year, instead of to Palm Harbor in Arizona. Beacon reported the address at 3244 N. Salisbury Road was owned by Matthew J. Jennings as of 12/29/16.
The home at 3244 N. Salisbury burned (waiting for a return call from RFD to find out when and the cause).
The Western Wayne News reached out to Derek Hill, Richmond Code Enforcement Officer, and Steve Higinbotham, Director of Facilities and Development for Wayne County Government, regarding the initial complaint about abandoned mobile homes at 2800 N US Hwy 35, Richmond.
Higinbotham responded by email that this property falls in the city’s 2-mile fringe zoning, and Richmond’s zoning ordinance would apply. He continued “The problem with this one is the property is owned by an LLC out of, as I recall, Arizona. A local person is buying the property on contract. But the local person is in jail for deception, theft, forgery, failure to appear and is also being held for another jurisdiction without bail. The local person also owned a home just south of this location, (which Western Wayne News confirmed is 3244 N. Salisbury Road) this location has now burned down.”
Higinbotham confirmed the county will address the burned out home through the unsafe building ordinance. However, Beacon indicates this property was purchased in a Sheriff’s sale in February 2022. Higinbotham is hopeful the new buyer will be more responsive.
Hill also confirmed to Western Wayne News the city will address the abandoned mobile home lot at 2800 N US Hwy 35.
As proven by the public notice ads placed monthly by the city’s Unsafe Building Commission in the Western Wayne News, Hill’s department is actively working to eliminate blight in Richmond. This case, however, is evidence of the complex and lengthy processes eliminating blight often require.
The Western Wayne News will continue to ask whether a vacant property ordinance and its enforcement might prevent properties from getting to this point. Because mobile homes are classified as vehicles, it may or may not have worked, but is it worthy of consideration by local government leaders as a tool to fight blight? Communities using it believe the answer is yes.

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