441 Bellefontaine ordered repaired or demolished, but City hasn’t closed door on renovation

This home at 441 Bellefontaine has been ordered to be demolished or to begin repairs in 30 days. But the City says there’s still hope for an amicable resolution.

By Paul Thompson

Northeast News

For years, Historic Northeast homeowner Janice James has been holding out hope that the City of Kansas City, Missouri would help repair her collapsing roof.

She may be running out of time.

On Tuesday, September 25, the City issued a 30-day Order to Repair or Demolish the property. The move sets a definitive timer on the protracted negotiations to repair of the structure, which have been seen multiple hang-ups over the past several months. At issue have been the rising cost of repairs, which have increased to nearly $80,000, as well as some disagreement between James and the City as to the length of a deed of trust.

Despite the Order to Repair or Demolish the property, Neighborhood and Housing Services Director John Wood told the Northeast News on Thursday, September 27 that he believes there is still a path to salvage the home. Wood added, however, that any repair work conducted by the City will be contingent upon James signing a deed of trust and being willing to temporarily move out of the home while the repairs are being completed.

“At least we need to try to make it happen,” Wood said. “We’ve got to have a deed of trust, even for a limited time. If she refuses that, then we’re not going to do it. She just can’t live in the house while we’re putting the roof on.”

If James acquiesces on those issues, Wood has authorized his staff to proceed with the repair of her roof. Wood suggested that he’d feel comfortable entering into a deed of trust no longer than 10 years, and as short as five years. Though he acknowledged that James has previously refused to move to temporary housing while the City completes the needed repairs, he added that he hopes the City can convince her to do so now.

“We’ve kind of committed ourselves to get the roof done and get the brick work done,” Wood said. “I’ve told staff to go ahead and get that process going this week.”

Wood indicated that the resources for the costly repair will likely be cobbled together from several resources, perhaps including the Minor Home Repair program, Love Thy Neighbor, and the Municipal Court Fund.

“There are some loose pots of money here and there that we have to do some investigation on,” Wood said. “If she wants this to happen, it can happen.”

Though Wood says that he doesn’t feel personally responsible for the years-long struggle to repair James’s roof, he does feel some obligation to justify the significant staff time that has been devoted to this project over recent months.

“We’ve put a lot of time and energy into it, and we still haven’t moved the ball down the field,” Wood said. “I’m a little frustrated by that process.”

For his part, KCMO City Manager Troy Schulte conceded on September 27 that the rising cost estimates for the repairs, combined with James’s hesitancy to move to temporary housing, have made this project a tough one.

“We’ll try to assist her to try and find temporary housing,” said Schulte. “This is going to be a difficult one to fix.”

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