Opinions vary on petition to demolish LaFontaine-Greywind apartment building in Fargo
FARGO — An online petition calling for the condemnation and demolition of the north Fargo apartment building where the slain Fargo woman, Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, lived and was last seen alive, is stirring up controversy.
The petition, posted to change.org, was created on Friday, Sept. 8, by a "concerned neighbor." As of Tuesday afternoon, it had 2,250 supporters. The creator had removed the full petition, and said that the petition and results would be mailed to the city of Fargo.
"The building has been a constant menace to the neighborhood," the petition said. "The police are always over at the building. City code violations. Owner refuses to do anything to improve the visible looks of the building until the City of Fargo forces him to."
The three-floor, seven-unit apartment building at 2825 9th St. N. is owned by CW Investments of Fargo. Christopher Owens, a Farmers Insurance agent in Fargo, is listed as the registered agent for the company. The building was constructed in 1960.
When contacted about the petition, Owens said, "I have no response."
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said on Tuesday, Sept. 12, that the city could not condemn and demolish a building merely because a petition asked the city to do that. He said a building could only be demolished by the city if it suffered from blight and was a hazard. That normally only happens with abandoned buildings, he said.
Opinion about whether the apartment building is a problem property varies. Fargo police have been called to the property 29 times in the last year, though 10 of those calls have come since LaFontaine-Greywind disappeared and some are related to that case.
Six of the calls have been for domestic or other disturbances, three for narcotics and two for unspecified abuse. One required K-9 officers. A call for a suicidal person in March 2017 came from the apartment occupied by Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn, the two suspects charged with conspiring to murder LaFontaine-Greywind and conspiring to kidnap her baby.
But Bruce Taralson, inspections administrator for the city of Fargo, said, "I don't recall issues with that building." He said the city did receive a complaint from a tenant of the building in July 2016, but all nine violations were corrected by the building owner. He said the owner had the entire exterior of the building repainted in response.
Grant Larson, director of environmental health for Fargo Cass Public Health, said his agency has received no complaints about the property since 2008. His department handles complaints for tall grass, weeds, garbage, excessive animal waste and similar problems.
A couple who own a house across the street from the apartment building, however, characterized the property as a nuisance. They said they supported the petition.
"I would like to see it gone for any number of reasons, not just the sad events that happened there," said Rosalie Johnson. "There always seems to be something going on there, police called for one reason or another. It smells, and it's dirty."
Her husband, Gerald Johnson added: "The landlord is one of those slumlords. He takes the money and doesn't do anything. It's a problem building."
The online petition angered Christipher "Smokey" Miranda, a resident of the apartment building.
"I think it's ridiculous," he said. "I think we should focus on making a memorial for Savanna rather than the rest of this. People are making really absurd and hateful comments about the rest of us who live here."
He added: "We have to have a place to live. My girl is disabled. I'm having surgery tomorrow. We live in low-income housing. There's nowhere else for us to go."
Joe and Norberta Greywind, parents of Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, and their children moved out of the building over the weekend, according to a family member.