Letter to the Jefferson city council re: proposed move of historic house

(Editor’s note – The following letter was provided to GreeneCountyNewsOnline without signatures by Steve Brown, who operates a business at 408 W. Lincoln Way and lives there. He said he did not write the letter but concurs with the opinions stated. Twenty-nine Jefferson residents signed it, 13 of whom live in the W. Lincoln Way neighborhood. All correspondence with elected officials becomes public documents.)

To the Jefferson, Iowa, City Council:

We nearby residents of 407 W. Lincoln Way in Jefferson are voicing our concerns about the proposal to move a century-plus, three story Victorian-style house from its current location at 305 W. State St. to 407 W. Lincoln Way.

We all believe in maintaining and preserving local historical structures. We also agree that this proposal is impractical.

The Greene County Assessor lists the condition of the State Street property as “Very Poor,” a condition easily seen from the street. The exterior of house has rotten and peeling wood siding and window casings and old and ill-fitting storm windows as well as an architecturally inappropriate front entry addition.

Your cost estimate of $124,000 to move and relocate the house includes moving the structure; putting in a new foundation at 407 W. Lincoln Way; exterior painting and connection of utilities.

Could you sell it for that, plus another $10,000 for the lot?

And to whom? Buyers with another $200,000, which would be needed for new wiring, plumbing, windows and storms, plus updating the kitchen and bath and probably adding at least one more bathroom, building a two-car garage and replacing sidewalks on the corner lot.

We think no one would be foolish enough to invest $300,000.00 to bring the house up to normal standards in Jefferson.

If no one buys it, does it sit there and continue to deteriorate while the city pays for minimum upkeep of the structure and its grounds? Or do you wait a few years, take your loses and sell it for whatever it will bring?

This is our worry: If it is ever sold, will the buyer do the upgrades or will the three-story house become another decrepit rental property like the house that sat on the comer in increasing disrepair until the city tore it down?

For more than 25 years, that house was a rental that attracted an increasingly low caliber of renters. The owner took no pride in maintaining the house or the lawn. Several neighborhood meetings were held about the condition of the property and the actions of its residents.Plus it was the site of at least four drug raids by local and state law enforcement.

We ask you to carefully consider your decision to spend $124,000 in tax money on a proposal we believe will have a negative impact our neighborhood, and on Lincoln Way, which already has enough houses in “Poor Condition” along its length.

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