City says it isn’t after church property

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Triedstone to have town hall meeting tonight

The city and a community organization are denying charges in the media that they are trying to takeover property owned by the Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church in Ironton.

In a report on a local TV news station, the issue centers on a house owned by the church that is used for storage. The station said that church got a letter saying it would be fined $200 until the house is brought up to code.

The church, at 615 Depot Square, said in the news report the city is trying to take the property on South Eighth Street because the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization is building affordable housing units on adjoining property.

Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit said that isn’t true.

“There is no plan to take the property,” he said. He added that city has nothing to do with the CAO’s project and doesn’t have any ownership in the project. The CAO has said it isn’t involved with city matters like vacant houses and has no designs on taking the property.

Triedstone Missionary Baptist Church, founded in 1849, is having a community hall meeting tonight at 6 p.m.

“The City of Ironton and Lawrence County Area Community Action Organization are building multi-family homes around the church’s property as part of affordable housing,” the church said in a press release. “The churches former parsonage is on the back of their lot and the City of Ironton and the CAO view the building as a blemish on their newly constructed community. As a result, they have begun fining the church.”

Triedstone’s Pastor Richard L. Carter said they are process of renovating the house, “but the letter stated that if we did not do it we already have been fined $200 because of the condition that they say it was in, and they said each year if we did not do anything with it that it would double. As the fees mount, it increases the likelihood that the city of Ironton will take the property.”

Cramblit said the letter that the church received is one that is sent to all property owners that have a vacant property. In 2018, the city council passed ordinance 18-55 which requires that all vacant buildings in the city be registered by filling out a form and filing it with the city’s public services department.

“It’s a standard form letter. The program requires registering residential and commercial building that are vacant,” Cramblit said. The filing fee is $200 the first year, $400 the second year and in the fifth year it is $5,200

Cramblit said church paid the fee in December 2020. The mayor point out that ordinance said that a building under active construction or renovation with a building permit is exempt from the fee.

“There isn’t a fine associated with this. If your building is vacant, you have to pay a yearly fee,” Cramblit said. “The ordinance was passed to deal with the numerous vacant buildings throughout the city and to clean them up. We have some buildings that the owners live outside the city or the property has been foreclosed by a bank and the building just goes to waste. This is just to make sure the property is maintained.”

Cramblit said the since the ordinance was passed in 2018, the city has sent out over 100 letters to property owners.

He pointed out that the building in question isn’t the church, but rather a piece of property they own.

“Regardless, it is not our intention to take that property or the church property,” he said.

The CAO put out remarks on Facebook about the situation saying the TV report and items on social media were wrong and it has no interest in taking the church’s property.

“A statement was made that insinuated that the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO (a non-profit service organization) was attempting to close a historic Ironton church in the same neighborhood that the CAO is undertaking a multi-year investment project to construct affordable housing units on vacant properties throughout the neighborhood,” the remarks said. “It should be noted that the Ironton-Lawrence County CAO is not part of the City government, nor does it have any legislative authority to levy such fees. Likewise, Ironton-Lawrence CAO has no interest in the respective Church properties and encourages the Church’s continued work in the neighborhood because it contributes to the Community’s joint efforts to support and sustain the neighborhood.”

The CAO said it was never contacted about the scope and intent of the redevelopment efforts in the neighborhood