A long-running battle over a condemned house in south Littleton took an ugly turn on March 19, when the home burst into flames the day before a hearing to determine if it should be demolished. The …
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A long-running battle over a condemned house in south Littleton took an ugly turn on March 19, when the home burst into flames the day before a hearing to determine if it should be demolished.
The homeowner, David Lynch, was nowhere to be found after the fire, as of March 21, and did not appear at a hearing he requested before the Building Board of Appeals to fight a demolition order for the house on March 20.
As a result, the board effectively closed the current pending demolition order against the house at 7874 South Windermere Circle, and opened a new case to be based on the house’s condition after the fire.
The fire’s cause has yet to be determined, said Tyler Everitt, a deputy fire marshal with South Metro Fire Rescue, who told the Board of Appeals he wasn’t sure how long the joint investigation with Littleton Police would take.
In the meantime, a lot of people would like to talk to Lynch.
“He needs to be questioned,” Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman said. “Neighbors would like to know where he is.”
Brinkman said she’s worn out on the years-long process and wants the house gone.
“I want to see that house torn down and the neighborhood put back together again,” Brinkman said. “This neighborhood has gone through enough.”
The house was declared uninhabitable in May 2018, according to a city news release, and after the owner failed to correct issues with the house, a demolition order was issued in November 2018.
Lynch requested a hearing to appeal the demolition order, which was held on Jan. 16. The hearing, which ran to four hours, was continued until March 7. Lynch failed to show up at that hearing, saying he was stuck in traffic. The hearing was rescheduled for March 20, but in the early hours of March 19, the house caught fire.
Problems for years
Rebecca Thompson, the city’s code enforcement supervisor, testified at the Jan. 16 Board of Appeals meeting, saying the house first came to code enforcement’s attention in 2012 after Lynch was arrested on animal cruelty charges.
Responding officers found the home in squalor, Thompson testified.
The home had “a large accumulation of dog feces and urine,” Thompson said. The ammonia from the urine was so extreme that Thompson required personal protective equipment to enter the home.
Further inspection showed the rest of the house was in extreme disrepair, Thompson said, and she issued an “order of correction” to compel Lynch to make repairs.
Lynch, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to the animal cruelty charges and served six months in jail, according to court records.
The home was re-inspected numerous times in subsequent years but the corrections were never made, Thompson said. Lynch never requested permits from the city to work on the house, and the home suffered severe water damage.
A church group helped Lynch clean out some of the garbage in the house after the condemnation order was issued in 2018, Lynch testified on Jan. 16.
Asked why he didn’t comply with the correction orders for the house, Lynch gave a variety of answers, saying he had been overwhelmed by the cost and bureaucracy of the process and was waiting on government grants to make repairs.
Asked why he didn’t sell the house, Lynch said a friend had once offered to line up an investor to buy it.
“He said, `If we get someone to offer you $200,000 for this, will you take it?’ ” Lynch testified. “And I said, `Go to hell.’ The government has taken everything I’ve got. This is the last thing. This is do or die, literally, because I got nothing else.”
The ordeal has proven exhausting for Wendy Landin, Lynch’s next-door neighbor who said she has pressured the city for years to take action on the house.
“It has brought all of our property values down,” Landin said of her neighbors. “It is a grave concern to my entire neighborhood that we live (with) this filth and disgust next door to us... We have nowhere to go. We can’t afford to live somewhere else. We’re not going to be driven out of our neighborhood by Lynch.”
Landin’s issues with Lynch go back to the 2000s, she said. Lynch bought the house in 2000, and Landin filed a restraining order against him in 2006, according to court records. In 2008, Lynch was cited for stealing water from Landin’s hose spigot.
Landin said she’s frustrated with the city’s response.
“He’s been given extension after extension after extension,” Landin said. “We have rights too. The city hasn’t taken it seriously. What will it take for this to end?”
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