Peters Creek residents cheer demolition of longtime nuisance buildings

Monday, January 7, 2019 - 10:28
  • A dog sits on a plot of land on Sunnyside Drive in Chugiak where two buildings were demolished on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. The municpality recently seized two parcels of land due to unpaid taxes and the buildings were destroyed after they were deemed unsafe. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • A municipal notice posted to a tree at the edge of property on Sunnyside Drive in Chugiak. On Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018 the municipality destroyed two structures on the property due to unsafe conditions. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)

A longtime thorn in the side of Peters Creek residents was finally removed Thursday when municipal workers demolished a pair of buildings that have been the source of decades of problems in the neighborhood.

“It’s been a major source of irritation for years,” said Jack Frost, acting director of Development Services for the Municipality of Anchorage.

From used syringes and junked-out cars to reports of thefts and residents brandishing weapons, the property in an otherwise unassuming neighborhood near Mirror Lake Middle School has been a neighborhood nightmare.

Frost said complaints about the property between Sunnyside Drive and Rambler Road in Peters Creek have been “almost constant” since about 1995. There have also been numerous police calls over the years and neighbors say the property has been home to a variety of “hoodlums,” “no-gooders” and “ne’er-do-wells” for decades.

The municipality recently took possession of two of the lots on the property due to unpaid taxes. On Thursday morning, a crew with a backhoe arrived with the cops to tear down a pair of dilapidated structures.

“The building became dangerous,” said Frost, who said several people were evicted from the structures despite there being no electricity or running water.

The Anchorage Police Department posted video of the demolition to its Facebook page Thursday.

Frost said the muni spent about $9,900 on the operation. Workers will return in the new year to finish the job, including hauling away some junk cars and other debris still on site. On Friday, a pickup sat in the driveway of the property loaded with boxes, and a dog sat outside a small trailer. It was unclear if anyone was still living on the property, but a municipal notice stapled to a tree in the front yard said occupancy was prohibited and all vehicles and structures would be removed and destroyed.

Among the recent crimes associated with the property and its inhabitants was a burglary on nearby Sara Circle over the July 4 weekend in which an armed invader was captured on a security camera brandishing a gun. The suspect, Erik Donhauser-Sagmoen, was later captured after the homeowner spotted the vehicle parked at the notorious property known locally as “the Yates compound.”

Alvin Brown said his friend lives next door to the property and has had several run-ins with people staying at the compound. Brown said his friend told him the people next door had been running extension cords to his house to steal power.

“People are just tired of this stuff,” Brown said.

Brown said the property was originally owned by a man named Jack Yates and has remained in Yates’ family over the years. According to the municipal property database, the property is owned by Washington resident Opal Yates. Earlier this year, the property was appraised at $41,000, including $29,100 for the land and $11,900 for three buildings in “poor” condition and an “average” condition lean-to.

He said Yates’ grandson, Kyle W. Smith, has caused numerous problems in the neighborhood.

“They’re well-known ne’er-do-wells,” he said.

In 2017, the police arrested Smith at the property for brandishing a pellet gun an yelling racial slurs during a dispute in the neighborhood. Smith is currently incarcerated on an assault charge.

Sara Circle resident Mark Nusbaum said fed-up neighbors have been calling the police almost constantly over the past couple of years in an effort to root out the problem.

“We just had enough of it and took action,” he said.

Nusbaum organized a Facebook page where neighbors can share tips and information. Nusbaum said that over the past couple years, Sunnyside resident Vincent English has been submitting formal complaints to the municipality in an effort to shed more light on the situation.

“He kind of took the ball that was already kind of rolling and started shuffling it along faster,” Nusbaum said.

English also posted a video to Facebook showing Kyle Smith walking at the foot of his driveway carrying a machete and what appeared to be a rifle case.

English said he made several formal complaints about municipal code violations, which he said were taken seriously by municipal code enforcement workers.

“They just needed that last push,” said English, who also credited neighborhood resident Georgia Kustura for helping keep up the pressure.

English said municipal ombudsman Darrel Hess called him twice in recent days to keep him up-to-date on the situation, and English was impressed with how the muni tackled the situation.

“You’ve got to give them praise,” he said.

Nusbaum said he’s pleased the structures have been demolished and hopes the action is a sign of better days ahead for his neighborhood.

“It feels good that I don’t have to worry about my kid walking to middle school,” he said.

English agreed. “It’s a victory for everyone,” he said.

Frost praised neighborhood residents for their vigilance and for continuing to call about the problem property.

“All the credit goes to them,” he said. “It was a good community effort.”

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or call 257-4274.

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