City of Lake Charles ramps up demolition efforts

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - You may have seen red signs on homes or commercial buildings throughout Lake Charles. Each has been identified by the city as needing repairs or even demolition since the 2020 storms.

Wednesday night alone, more than a dozen properties were discussed by the city council as possibly needing to be condemned. The Lake Charles City Council is now taking a more aggressive approach to clean up the city.

“Our goal with the citizens in the City of Lake Charles is to be as helpful as possible,” said Doug Burguieres, the Lake Charles director of planning and development.

After two years to get repairs, renovations or demolitions done, the City of Lake Charles is ramping up efforts to get the city back to where it was before the 2020 hurricanes.

“If you were a property owner living next to this, you want it cleaned up. We understand that, and so we are taking a little bit more of an aggressive approach to try to get these run through a little quicker,” said city planner John Cardone.

Now a multi-step process is in place by the city to try to speed things up.

Residents can call the city if they feel a nearby home or structure is in need of demolition, but inspectors are already out looking for structures that are unsafe or in need of repairs.

“Once the inspector gets that, they’ll post it unsafe for occupancy. They will send a letter to the property owner, typically they give them 15 days to respond back whether they’re going to repair or demolish the structure,” Cardone said.

Next, the case moves to an administrative hearing officer, where the property owner will have a chance to make their case.

“Because they’re still trying to settle with their insurance companies or they can’t get their contractors, or they’re supposed to start in the next 60 days. So they can explain that to the administrative officer and the administrative hearing officer can give them additional time, they may give them another 30 days for example,” said Cardone.

If no action is taken by the property owner after that, the decision moves to the city council. The whole process, from start to finish, can take up to six months to complete.

“The city council is the legislative body that actually condemns a structure. So once it goes to the city council, they’ll give them so much time to repair or demolish, if not then the city puts it out for bids and we tear it down if they don’t repair it,” said Cardone.

The property owner will be responsible for the demolition or repairs, but there are options for assistance, including the private property debris removal program (PPDR) through FEMA. For more information on the PPDR program, CLICK HERE.

If the structure poses immediate danger to the property owner or neighbors, there is also an expedited process. If it is in immediate danger to the area, they bypass the admin hearing officer and take it straight to city council.

Typically if its bad enough, city council will give a reduced amount of time to either repair or demolish it, or put it out for bid to tear it down. They will still get a notice on the structure that demolition is necessary. The property owner can still attend the city council meeting an request additional time, and they can decide on whether or not to do so depending on the state of the structure and surrounding areas.

Over 200 properties have been “red tagged,” meaning they are deemed unsafe for occupancy, since the 2020 hurricanes. Cardone says most of these are hurricane-related damage, or structures that were damaged before the hurricanes and even further damaged during.

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