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Wall dispute comes down to inches

January 20, 2011

Post & Mail photo/Linda Hoskins Gary Hicks makes a point during a special meeting of the South Whitley Town Council regarding a property dispute.

SOUTH WHITLEY — In an attempt to resolve a property line dispute, that is holding up completion of ordered repair on an exposed wall of a downtown business, the South Whitley Town Council held a special meeting Tuesday evening.
Randy Striggle, owner of the Green Parrot and Gary Hicks, owner of the demolished Hicks and Deaton building met with the council to discuss the issue. The Green Parrot and the former Hicks and Deaton hardware storage building shared a common wall. Since demolition, the southern wall of the Green Parrot has been exposed.
In November it came to the attention of the board that there was question as to where the property line is. The line may well divide the approximately six-inch wall, with part of it belonging to Striggle and part to Hicks.
With an extended repair deadline of Dec. 29 well past, town council members are unanimous and determined to resolve the property line dispute between Striggle and Hicks.
“I guess the bottom line is we would just like to get a compromise so we get the (exposed) wall finished, council president John Dunn said. “Now, what do we have to do to get this done is what we are here for so we can get this accomplished.”
According to county building inspector Craig Wagner, backing and insulation could be installed on the wall, but the final siding will require framing which cannot be completed until the property line dispute is resolved.
“We need to know where the property line is for sure before we issue a permit,” Wagner said.
A survey will be completed to determine the location of the property line.
Hicks said he was advised before demolition of his building in June that the property line was in the center of the wall, based off of a legal description on a deed.
“The issue is since the building is leaning, if it’s in the center of the wall, it leans over the property line,” Wagner said. “We have measured since demolition and it doesn’t appear to be exactly in the center of the wall.”
Council vice president Tonya Warner suggested that repairs be completed and have the legal system settle the dispute. To avoid the town from being sued, Wagner advised that a permit cannot be issued until this ongoing issue is resolved.
“If the line is in the middle of the wall, half of it is already on your property, Gary, without encroachment,” Striggle said. “Half of that wall is yours.”
Hicks said if the property line is in the center of the wall there is no practicality in tearing down half of a wall.
“I don’t have to side (the wall), I can leave it the way it is,” Hicks said.
Frustrated with no resolution between property owners, town attorney Greg Hockemeyer intervened stating the town wants the exposed wall repaired without having to demolish the building.
“We (the town) will pay for a survey in the encroachment area and if the repairs can be done without encroaching on the neighboring property, a permit can then be issued,” Hockemeyer said. “If encroachment, we issue a new unsafe order to both owners because the building is on both of their properties, and they have joint responsibility to get it repaired or to get it torn down.”
If, in fact, the property line encroaches, Hicks and Striggle will both be charged for repairs and/or demolition.
“Bottom line, (the town) does not want to tear down the building, if owners don’t comply,” Hockemeyer said. “The building clearly doesn’t have to be torn down and clearly can be repaired.”

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