Fate of abandoned home remains in limbo

Published 1:23 pm Friday, March 13, 2009

George and Faye Yarchak thought they had found their dream home.

The retired couple had lived in 10 houses in several cities during their careers with the telephone company. They were looking for a place to call home for the rest of their lives.

“We knew we wanted to live in Shelby County and we liked Columbiana, so we started looking for a house here,” Yarchak said.

In January 2008, the couple came upon the unfinished home at 317 Highway 47 in Columbiana.

“We fell in love with that house. Faye just loved it,” Yarchak said.

Little did the Yarchaks know they had stumbled upon a house that is unlikely to ever be anyone’s home.

“The house by the golf course,” as it is referred to in Columbiana, is in limbo.

A dream come true?

First United Security Bank became owners of the partially-constructed home when its original builders defaulted on a personal loan and filed for bankruptcy in April 2006. The bank was stuck with an unpaid debt that amounted to more than $352,500, Yarchak said.

During the construction of the home, which began in August 2005, the builders obtained a variance from the city of Columbiana to build a separate garage structure within 20 feet of Highway 47, rather than the required 40-foot setback.

Through their attorney, Vicki Smith, the Yarchaks worked out a deal to purchase the home in 2008 with Ed Oliver, vice president and commercial loan officer at First United Security Bank, who was involved with making the original loan on the house, Yarchak said.

The bank agreed to allow the Yarchaks to purchase the home and property for $250,000 and obtain an additional loan for $125,000 to finish the home and purchase some additional property behind the home, which would serve as a buffer between the building and Magnolia Meadow Golf Course.

“As Ed and I and Vicki came to the point of closing, we felt – as Vicki did – that we didn’t want any encumbrances on the property, didn’t want anything to come up that would cause us financial problems in the future,” Yarchak said, so the property was surveyed.

That’s when they discovered the garage building was actually built 17 feet from Highway 47, not the 20 feet the variance from the city allowed.

The Yarchaks and their attorney appealed to the Columbiana Board of Adjustments for an additional variance that would allow for the addition of the three feet the garage building encroaches on the setback area.

The board, in a three-to-two vote, denied that request.

The dream becomes a nightmare

The rejection of the request for the additional variance left the Yarchaks and First United Security Bank in a difficult position. It was estimated to cost between $30,000 and $40,000 to take the three feet down and rebuild the front of the garage, a cost neither the bank nor the Yarchaks were willing to pay.

Oliver, contacted this week at his office at First United Security Bank in Calera, declined to comment, other than to say the house is for sale, though anyone wanting to buy the home would likely encounter the same obstacles faced by the Yarchaks.

“We are working now to resolve those issues,” Oliver said. He would not elaborate.

The house in limbo

The Yarchaks wonder now what is to become of the home.

“Nobody’s benefiting. They are not going to draw any tax revenue. Here you have two senior citizens who want to go in and fix that house up and put it on the tax rolls, but they said no,” Yarchak said.

Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe said ordinances are in place for the good of the community.

“A remedy was given by the city to make the property in compliance with the variance,” Lowe said. “The variance was more than fair. We gave them a 20-foot setback rather than a 40-foot setback. To continue to ask the city to give and give isn’t in the best interest of the community. We have to enforce our ordinances.”

Yarchak disagrees.

“If you go up and down 47, you’ll see many houses that are closer to the road than that.”

The Yarchaks, who are living in a vacation home they own near Lay Lake, are again searching for a home.

“It just broke my heart to see it. I knew I could turn this rough thing into a diamond. Faye was just overwhelmed by it. She just loved it. She ordered things, bought bedspreads and drapes. We were that sure the house was going to be ours,” he said. “I keep asking myself, ‘Who benefits?’ I can understand a zone is a zone is a zone. But in this situation, everyone would benefit from issuing this three-foot variance — the city, the bank, everyone.”