Akron has rejected an attorney’s attempt to delay the planned demolition of a home owned by an Army veteran who threatened to kill anyone who tried to take his property.
Attorney Warner Mendenhall said he provided the city with a list of 17 organizations, companies or individuals who volunteered to help repair the home.
Mendenhall, who is volunteering his expertise, told Assistant Law Director John York the house could be fixed by June.
In a letter York wrote back to Mendenhall, however, he said, “The city cannot agree to allow more time to complete the repairs.”
At issue is the fate of a home Lawrence L. “Larry” Modic purchased in the 1400 block of Manchester Road.
Modic, 57, of Lakewood, bought the house last May. He has said he was unaware at the time that there were orders from the city’s Housing Division to make numerous repairs on the property.
Modic, who has never lived in the Akron house, was taken into custody last week by Akron police and later sent to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center at Wade Park for treatment.
Authorities say they took Modic into custody for his own safety because he threatened to kill city workers if they attempted to tear down the home.
Modic, who served 13 years active duty and nine years in the Ohio Army National Guard, has not been charged with any crimes.
Police confiscated four loaded rifles, one loaded handgun, two boxes of ammunition and one flak jacket from the Manchester Road home.
Modic said he has been under the care of a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist for two decades and in recovery for alcohol and drug problems. He said this week he was thankful for those in the community rallying to save the house he hoped to move into.
The city of Akron’s Housing Appeals Board condemned the property in September. The city said he was given from June to September to make the necessary repairs before the demolition order would be handed down.
Modic said he did not attend a key September meeting because he was confused over when it was to be held. He then missed a 30-day deadline to appeal the board’s decision.
The city’s wrangling over the condition of the home dates back to 2003. The home has been vacant since 2009.
The city renewed its push for the home to be repaired last spring when a housing inspector found an open door and a broken window.
A few days before Modic was taken into custody earlier this month, he filed a “notice of administrative appeal” with Summit County Common Pleas Court to block the demolition. The case has not been assigned to a judge.
“Once the time to appeal passed, the order was unquestionably lawful, constitutional, valid and beyond to collateral attack,” York wrote to Mendenhall.
York threatened Mendenhall with potential “sanctions” should he attempt to contest the city’s lawful right to demolish the home, saying the window to appeal the order has passed.
Mendenhall said he still plans to go ahead and file arguments on Modic’s behalf on the administrative appeal that the homeowner already has filed and also will take his case before City Council when it meets Monday. He thinks council should consider giving homeowners more than 30 days to appeal such demolition orders.
“The heat is off for today,” Mendenhall said Friday, saying he was told the city has no immediate plans to take down the house.
Mendenhall said he believes Modic “is someone operating under some type of disability and that, I think, kept him from being able to respond appropriately to a very tight deadline.
“I think there is room in our court system to accommodate people who are not completely capable of following the letter of the law,” he said.
Board done with case
Pam Williams, chairwoman of the Housing Appeals Board, said the case is out of the board’s hands.
“The board made its decision on the best information it had at the time,” she said. “He brought a property that was already in trouble with the city.”
Williams said the board met and Modic “didn’t do what he was supposed to do and didn’t bother to come to the board to explain” what work had been done on the home.
Last year, the city demolished nearly 600 homes.
City spokeswoman Stephanie York, wife of John York, said she doesn’t understand “why this is any different than the hundreds of houses that come before the Housing Appeals Board and are ordered demolished every year, other than there was an article written on it.”
Besides, she said, this particular case “is far more severe” in the city’s eyes because the property owner in this instance “made physical threats upon city employees.”
“If that is what it takes to get Mr. Mendenhall’s attention, it is really a sad case.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.