It may be haunted. At least that's a rumor that seems to attract thrill seekers and others to the site of an abandoned nursing home in Chesterfield.
For years, the Chesterfield Manor nursing home has been a hot spot for trespassing. But the building has fallen into disrepair. It's been cited many times for health and property code violations. Now, the city wants it torn down.
City council members voted unanimously at their Monday meeting to begin the administrative process of having the nursing home demolished.
"There's no doubt that if you just went over and look at it, it needs to come down," Mayor Bruce Geiger said at a May 24 Planning and Public Works Committee meeting when the issue was discussed.
At that meeting, many council members expressed concerns that if something didn't change at the old nursing home, which is located at 14001 Olive Blvd., someone might be injured.
That concern is shared by city Code Enforcement Inspector Curtis Krusie. In a May 16 memo to Police Lt. Dave Ray, Krusie details some of the problems that the property has caused since it closed in 1998.
"Our concerns surrounding this property are increasingly of a public health and safety nature. The building is collapsing in numerous places and filled with broken glass, sharp edges, needles, nails, wires, etc.," Krusie wrote. "If we do not take administrative action, the owners have little incentive to remove the dangerous building themselves. Eventually someone, likely a City of Chesterfield employee, is going to be severely hurt on this property."
City Attorney Rob Heggie told council members at the May 24 committee meeting that the city has been in talks with the property owners, Adele and Tom Daake, for years in the hopes of getting the site cleaned up and brought up to code. Any legal action the city has tried to take has often been thwarted. The Daake's attorney has moved cases to the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. That's allowed under Missouri Court Rules, Heggie said in a memo to City Administrator Michael Herring, but it makes things difficult.
"It is very easy for cases to be delayed in circuit court, and frankly, the penalties assessed in some of these cases are not sufficient to cause these types of property owners to properly care for the property," Heggie wrote.
While the cases languish in court, little to nothing has been done on the property, city officials said.
"In the past thirteen years, the property has been almost completely neglected, and its condition has deteriorated tremendously," Krusie wrote in his memo.
The property sits on about 30 acres and is well concealed by foliage, which adds to its appeal for thrill seekers and "anyone wishing to engage in illicit activities," Krusie wrote. In fact, since 2001, Krusie said police had responded to more than 100 calls at the location for various violations, such as trespassing, burglary and liquor violations. Websites list the building as haunted, and Youtube users have uploaded video tours of the site.
On Aug. 17, 2010, a fire severely damaged the building. The Monarch Fire Protection District and St. Louis County declared the building unfit following the fire.
On Nov. 19, 2010, the Daakes and their attorney met with city staff to discuss the property. Krusie said that at that meeting the Daakes outlined a plan to develop the site and agreed to a timeline for abatement of property maintenance and public nuisance violations.
"Since that time, no work has been done to honor this agreement, and the property continues to deteriorate," Krusie said in his May memo.
Most recently, city staff met to discuss the building on April 26. Two police officers—Lt. Dave Ray and Lt. Steven Lewis—City Prosecuting Attorney Tim Engelmeyer, Heggie and Public Works Director Mike Geisel were at the meeting. Most agreed that it was time to begin the administrative process to tear the nursing home down.
At the May 24 Planning and Public Works Committee meeting, Ward 4 Councilman Bob Nation asked if the Daakes were aware that the city was at this point.
Heggie confirmed that Engelmeyer recently had a long conversation with the Daakes' attorney.
"He talked until he was blue in the face," Heggie said. "They wanted to meet again in two weeks, but no, we're done meeting."
The Planning and Public Works Committee unanimously agreed to recommend that city council authorize the administrative process to take place. Monday night, city council voted to begin the process, which is outlined in city ordinances 1055 and 1276.
The city is conducting a title search to ensure they adequately notify anyone with a vested interest in the property. Once everyone has received a "notice of declaration of nuisance," they have 30 days to repair or demolish the building. If that's not done, there will be a hearing.
An engineer will oversee the hearing and listen to evidence to determine if the property is unfit. The owners then have 30 days to fix any problems, or the city can demolish the building and place a lien on the property for the demolition costs. A preliminary estimate came in at more than $280,000.
It will be at least two or three months, probably a little longer, before bulldozers are on the property, Heggie said.