Neighborhood fights back after city code sweep

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Homeowners in the Longfellow neighborhood, targeted by a city code enforcement sweep last month, won at least a minor victory Monday night in a community meeting when Assistant City Manager John Wood and Councilman Jim Glover agreed to take their request to dismiss nearly 100 new cases to the city attorney on Tuesday.

The code enforcement sweep was hotly controversial for both how it came about and for many of the relatively minor offenses it seemed to target.

On April 13, developer John Hoffman, whose Urban Coeur Properties completed two houses in the neighborhood this year, wrote to several city officials including both 3rd district councils members and the assistant city manager asking for "some help from the city and public works."

Hoffman's email, a copy of which he provided to 41 Action News, mentioned one specific address, and several non-specific eyesores around the neighborhood including overgrown foliage and inoperable cars parked on lawns.

Two days later, Wood replied that "codes would be visiting the area the next week." Hoffman forwarded that warning to neighborhood association leaders the same day.

On April 21, at least a half a dozen code inspectors swarmed the neighborhood, opening 90 new reports.

Neighbors, many of whom take pride in their difficult-to-maintain, century-old homes, were outraged at what they saw as a powerful developer calling in favors to essentially improve his property value at their expense- a charge both Hoffman and city officials deny.

"I had best intentions. I didn't realize they were going to send I don't know how many inspectors," Hoffman told 41 Action News. "I feel badly that so much of it was little pettiness. I was just trying to get rid of the big things."

At a neighborhood association meeting Monday, residents argued that their calls to 311, or complaints about nuisance neighbors never get answered with such alacrity and that they felt unfairly targeted in a city with bigger problems.

"I want to know why you're targeting our neighborhood when you have way bigger problems on the other side of Troost," one resident demanded of Wood, Glover and other city officials in attendance.

Glover and Wood said they would take the residents’ complaints to the city attorney to see if there was a way to ameliorate their concerns-- possibly by dismissing some or all of the violations.

"It's infuriating," said 35-year Longfellow resident Bill Boos. "It seems absurd that somebody who doesn't even live in the neighborhood can crack the whip on the city council and get them to do their bidding."

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