Not just ANY hole, mind you. This was...
...a "dig to China" hole. This was a "oh, my word, is he looking for DINOSAUR BONES?!" kinda hole. This is when you wonder--you seriously worry and wonder--whether the earth will give way and the house will fall (ass over china hutch over tea kettle) into the earth's gaping maw.
Pictures will follow. YOU WILL SEE.
Real estate agent, housing preservationist, and Hawthorne's newest, arguably HOTTEST resident, Constance Nompelis (No-bell-iss) was our Paul Revere, sounding the alarm on her "Over North" blog with cell phone pictures. Discussion took place on an unrelated chat thread of THIS blog while Housing Director Jeff Skrenes was on vacation in the "UP" of Michigan, with Jeff saying he was ON IT--very seriously ON IT--the red hot second he got back.
Dyna Sluyter was on the issue as well, absolutely LIGHTING UP the e-democracy forum while the incident was still ongoing.
In the meantime, voice mail and email inboxes of public officials slowly filled up with the frantic cry for help from the Hawthorne neighborhood, where very involved, very wired, very communicative NoMi citizens were rallying like MINUTEMEN to face off the red coats.
But it was Jeff's crystal clear digital pictures and the office of Council Member Diane Hofstede which sent city inspectors to the site POST HASTE, ripping off the adhesive from the order to STOP WORK IMMEDIATELY. Yet long before those inspectors arrived, Jeff Skrenes PERSONALLY confronted the slumlord.
The slumlord got out of what Jeff called his "Baby Backhoe of Doom" and walked rapidly toward Jeff. It was clear the slumlord was getting pretty tired of citizens standing at the edge of his beautiful hole with cameras and horrified expressions. He tried to tell Jeff he had all the proper permits to do this.
"NO YOU DON'T!" Jeff said, and he said it LOUD. Jeff said he'd called the city and the slumlord DID NOT have an excavation permit, and that was clearly what was happening HERE: not mere demolition, but EXCAVATION, like "TELL ME WHEN YOU HIT MAGMA" excavation.
The slumlord was clearly digging a hole to put in a basement, expand the house, and pack in as many renters as he could. KEEP IN MIND this house is zoned R2-B, which means it can't have more than two units without a special zoning variance, which this house--what's left it--DOES NOT HAVE.
(Jeff, who is a Star Wars geek, also noted "R2-B" might be an R2 unit whose primary language is Bocci)
"I AM THE NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSING DIRECTOR!" Jeff said, facing down the slumlord. "YOU DO NOT COME TO MY NEIGHBORHOOD AND THINK YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS!"
I'm not sure if expletives were thrown around. If they were, I wouldn't quote 'em. This is the true grit it takes to protect our neighborhood, and it's a good thing we have a Housing Director who is also something of a body builder, because it's moments like this you need a big, muscular guy from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to face down a slumlord armed with a "Baby Backhoe of Doom," most likely a "Bobcat."
HOW MANY TIMES will this need to happen before the slumlords figure it out? It happened on "Desolation Row" near Fairview Park, the first place I ever saw what a "STOP WORK IMMEDIATELY" order looks like. It happened at 3001 6th St. N., when I personally called it in to the Department of Inspections, and blogged about it here. This very thing has happened other places in Hawthorne, too.
Slumlords obtain a property dirt cheap, and then come into the neighborhood thinking North Minneapolis is a place where nobody cares, where permits can be ignored, where it's pretty much the wild west and the only law is renters need to pay money by the first of the month or they'll be out in the street.
But that's NOT how it is. You pull up with a truck in front of a house, and neighbors approach. They make inquiries. And if the inquiries do not meet with satisfactory answers, they start making calls. LOTS of calls.
Today there was an article in the Star Tribune talking about how properties held by absentee homeowners (quite possibly wannabe slumlords) are outpacing those held by the people who give a rip about making the neighborhood a nice place to live and raise a family.
So let the word go forth to those who are thinking of buying property in North Minneapolis, and to those who have already bought property and are thinking, gee, should I renovate it? Or should I pack it with renters and ignore as many rules as I can to maximize revenue? Let them look here, and let them know:
SLUMLORDS, FLY-By-NIGHT OPERATORS, SCAMMERS OF EVERY TYPE AND STRIPE:
WE WILL PUT YOUR BLOODY, SEVERED HEAD ON A POLE!!!!!!!!!