Whitehall landlord back in court over building violations


 Messenger photos by Dianne Garrett
Tom Olander, owner of Woodcliff Condominiums in Whitehall, was ordered last year to fill in the  unused swimming pools with dirt fill.  However, he has been using the pools to dump brush and debris.  According to Paul Wenning of the Franklin County Board of Health, that poses a safety risk.  Three burned-out units at Woodcliff Condominiums , shown below, still have not been removed.

During an arraignment at Franklin County Environmental Court on July 17, Whitehall landlord Tom Olander pleaded not guilty to 21 cases of property code violations, according to special counsel for the city, Joe Durham.  

Next will be the discovery process and depositions prior to a hearing scheduled for October 4.   Durham will file a request for Judge Harland Hale to do an on-site visit before the hearing.

After many years of fighting city hall, well over 60 percent of the units are vacant, brush and debris continues to accumulate and landscaping needs attention.  Three burned units remain, mold is growing up from many basements and ceilings are falling, and residents are being fined by Olander for setting trash out for Rumpke to legally pick up.

The landlord has appeared many times before the local magistrate, and has served one three-day sentence in the past with another one still yet to be served.  

Paul Wenning of the Franklin County Board of Health and Whitehall Service Director Ray Ogden have been trying for over a year to get the case to the Franklin Count court, but the process was not moving along through city attorney Cheryl Nester’s office.  City Council hired Durham as outside counsel last March in an attempt to speed things up.

Last year Wenning ordered Olander to drain his unused swimming pools to get rid of stagnant water and mosquito larvae, and to fill the pools up with dirt.  

Olander cut into the bottoms of the pools to drain them, and is now filling them up with brush and other debris from around the property rather than dirt.  

He also has taken down a protective fence to make the dumping easier.  In the former playground area are piles of old furniture, trash, mattresses and Rumpke recycling bins.

Two years ago the landlord obtained a hauling permit from the health department at a cost of $50 a year.  Wenning said that Olander renewed the permit in 2006, but has not done so this year, which means he shouldn’t be picking up the trash that he won’t allow Rumpke to collect.  

Under the solid waste regulations permit, the trash and debris must be picked up every seven days.  A registered waste hauler cannot keep the debris and trash on the property.

In addition, a foreclosure of mortgage was filed last week against Olander by First Community Bank on 21 of the parcels in the amount of $571,224.

Swim Land, once a popular place for Whitehall residents to have summer fun, has been closed and abandoned for several years.  The facility is owned by the Ethiopian Ortho Tewahdo Church, and remains in deteriorating condition.  The city has ordered it to be torn down.

In an unrelated case, Swim Land, located at the corner of Hamilton  and Etna roads, has been abandoned for several years.  The swimming club was once the center of summer fun for youth and adults in Whitehall.  It was posted condemned by Building Inspector Mike McGowan on March 29.  An order was issued in June to tear it down.  

The building was purchased at auction in March, 2006, by the Ethiopian Ortho Tewahdo Church for $406,000.

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