End in sight for blighted property in Marietta

A property on Marietta’s lower west side has been a source of conflict in the neighborhood for years.
WTAP News @ 10
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:23 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - The house at the corner of Pearl and Ward Streets, known to some in the community as “The Compound,” has a storied history, with police and sheriffs deputies making regular visits to the property since at least 2018.

Neighbors maintain that the house is a locus for criminal activity including drug use and prostitution, and a threat to the whole neighborhood, including the day care center and park located nearby. Scott Richards, who lives adjacent to the house, said it’s a locus for criminal activity including prostitution and drug use. Another neighbor, Vicky Payne, said she’s had personal items stolen by people living at the property and smelled what she believes to be drugs being manufactured in the house.

After almost four years of inspections by city officials and efforts by the property owner to clean things up, Marietta’s mayor said it’s time for something more definitive to happen. “We’re not here to bully anyone or take control, but the time’s coming that we need to take a little bit of enforcement action,” said Mayor Josh Schlicher.

Following a final inspection of the property Wednesday, Schlicher said he’ll be meeting with the property owner on Friday to discuss the future of the property. He said that ultimately, this will probably result in the demolition of the house and the cleanup of the property by the city.

City Councilman Geoff Schenkel believes this resolution is too little, too late. He believes the city could have and should have taken more action years ago. He said that they have taken action in similar situations in other parts of the city. “At 7th and Putnam we put up a fence,’ He said. “It’s been there for years. Years, we’ve been keeping the public safe by putting up a fence. But in this case, for some reason, we’ve chosen to prioritize negotiation of real estate.”

Schenkel said the city has selectively enforced the law when it comes to blighted properties in different parts of the city.

Marietta’s code enforcement officer Wayne Rinehart said it’s not that simple. “We have been doing something,” he said. “We are trying to do something. We’ve been working with the property owner. The property owner has been trying to move forward and comply with our wishes, our orders. It’s just he’s -- it’s been slow.”

John H. Parsons, the property owner, said he’s put up a fence and repainted parts of the house, but can only do so much. “I know it doesn’t appear that I make significant progress because it’s so big, and it’s just like sprinkling sand on a beach,” he said.

Parsons said that the city has proposed paying him $30,000 to remove his belongings from the property, which include a number of family heirlooms with sentimental value, and $20,000 cash to take over the property.He said this is less than the property is worth, but doesn’t see many options for himself.

“I’m on a fixed income to begin with,” he said. “And I just don’t see any way that I can accomplish everything that I need to accomplish, either financially or physically.” Parsons has maintained for years a vision of what the property could’ve been, something more than “The Compound.”

He believes it’s always been more than that and prefers to call the house “The Townzend.” He said the rumors of rampant criminality surrounding the property are overblown, though he does acknowledge that he’s had personal property stolen by people breaking and entering.

He also said he’s helped some sixty plus itinerants passing through find sobriety.

Now, he, he said tired.

“I quit,” he said. “I’m done. Tear the scaffolds done and go home. That’s all there is to it.”