Residents living in Pahrump’s Comstock community say they have begged, pleaded and done just about everything to convince Nye County officials a home that burned this spring is a safety and health hazard to residents in their neighborhood.
The home, located at 290 Duck Creek, was destroyed by fire more than four months ago.
Local resident Jerry Monahan lives next door to the burned out dwelling.
On Tuesday, Monahan said he and other homeowners on the street want the county to address the issue due mainly to health concerns, and the fact the home is a complete eyesore.
“The homeowners association has tried again and again to have county officials do something about this. It’s been over four months and the burned out place is causing all kinds of headaches for the people who live here,” he said.
Monahan’s home stands less than 10 feet from the burned out structure.
He said the ash and odors that are still emanating from the house next door are creating health issues for he and his wife Nikki, especially when the wind kicks up in the area.
“I have respiratory problems already. It’s hard to breathe when we go outside because the winds would carry all of the ash over to our place and the neighboring homes. You can see all of the charred stuff in my yard. I try to clean it up every day, but it never stops. It’s useless,” he said.
The structure itself appears to be unstable.
The exterior walls of the home no longer exist, thus anyone who wanders by, can enter it at their leisure.
The only thing preventing someone gaining entry is a single strip of yellow caution tape.
Monahan said he’s witnessed kids entering the home from time to time, which he tries to discourage.
There is no renting at Comstock Park according to the homeowners association.
Residents there are considered “homeowners” even if the home is actually owned by another party.
Lucy Karp is on the board of directors of the Comstock Park Homeowners Association.
Karp said she too has tried to convince county officials to tear down the home.
“We were told by code compliance that we are an HOA, so they can’t help us because it’s up to the association, but the problem is everyone owns their own property and their own house. We don’t have the right to enter the house. We can only go on the property outside,” she said.
Additionally, Karp said the fact that children are entering and playing inside the home, presents a safety hazard, which she believes the county has an obligation to take some kind of action.
“Since children are actually entering, it should become a code compliance issue,” she said.
Karp also said the family who lived in the home at the time of the fire did not have insurance, which complicated the matter even more.
The family was renting to own the home.
“The person’s name that is on the assessor’s is the person who is responsible for the home. If the home burns down, you are going to have to pay for it if you don’t have insurance and that’s the situation here. The guy has no money to pay for it and he didn’t have insurance,” she said.
Karp said she and the Comstock Park Rules Committee director have made at least nine visits to the county’s code compliance office since late May to learn what else can be done to remedy the eyesore and what they say is a safety hazard to area children.
“They told us that they sent out letters and they know the family received them, but they said the people who were leasing with an option to buy are the ones responsible.
As with any location in town, Comstock Park has seen its share of structure fires over the years.
Karp noted that it usually took just a few weeks to clean up the property.
“It was done right away because those people had insurance. It was taken care of with little delays. If I lived next door to that health hazard on Duck Creek, I would be furious that it’s taking this long to have something done,” she recalled.
Moreover, Karp said she has urged residents in the area to make calls and complain.
“We really need the residents’ help. They should go over to the code compliance office. We are going to stay on top of this because if we don’t, it will all be forgotten about,” she said.
Nye County Department of Planning Director Darrell Lacy said this week that county officials are aware of the situation, but there are protocols that must be followed before any action is taken at the property.
He also noted that issues similar to the Duck Creek incident are not a top priority for the county at present.
“Nye County has not been real aggressive on code compliance. We only deal with complaints. Once something gets into our complaint process, then we have a process to send notice letters to them and hopefully the property owners will respond and clean up the property,” he said.
Lacy said a series of notices are mailed to the property owners informing them that the issue must be addressed.
The process could take several months up to a year before any real action can be taken by the county.
“At this level, all we do is send the letters and hope the people clean it up. Once it gets past that point, then it goes to the district attorney’s office. It’s just not something that has the same ordinances and resources that Clark County or somewhere like that does where they actually aggressively go out and tear down buildings. It’s an expensive process and it takes a lot of people, but the county commissioners just haven’t had the resources to do so,” he said.
Lacy also said if the owners do not respond, it will be up to the Nye County Board of Commissioners to take action.
“If they don’t clean it up, it will go back to the commissioners to agendize and be declared a nuisance and then we could go through with the actual razing of the property. It can take months or years to get something like that done. We always try to give the property owners the opportunity to clean something up on their own. No one wants a heavy-handed government to take someone’s property,” he said.
Still, Karp said the fact that the home remains wide open, the safety of children is yet another concern.
“If the county won’t tear it down, at least the home can be boarded up to avoid anyone going inside and getting hurt. The floors are all unstable and someone could fall through them and seriously injure themselves. We can’t according to the law go inside the home to try and close it off,” she said.
Both Karp and Monahan agree that Fire Chief Scott Lewis and his crew did the Comstock community a great service by preventing the fire from spreading to neighboring homes at the time.
“They are wonderful. When anything happens, they are here very fast. Because the homes are so close together, they bring a fire truck on each street, on the other side. They evacuate if there are any propane tanks around,” she said.
What still looms, according to Karp, is who will ultimately be responsible in the event a child is injured while exploring the home.