Waukesha condo association appeals raze order, trying to buy more time

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WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The group of Waukesha condo owners that were forced to evacuate their homes and ordered to tear down the building are trying to buy more time before they decide.

The condo association filed an appeal to the city's raze order, and have hired legal counsel to represent them.

The potential financial burden is still staggering: it could cost millions of dollars to tear down the building. So the group of 48 owners is trying to explore their options.

Resident Alicia Halvensleben said, "We're just hoping for the best possible outcome where we aren't just all followed by this until we are in the grave."

With the 30-day deadline fast approaching on the Waukesha fire inspector's Jan. 3 raze order, the Horizon West Condo Association hired legal representation and voted to appeal the order, buying a little more time.

Halvensleben said, "Even if we do pursue going down the avenue of just bringing the building down, even that we weren't really given enough time. So the appeal isn't necessarily to point a finger here, there. It's just to explore options."

Halvensleben says it was good to see her neighbors at the meeting, many for the first time since they were evacuated from the building in early December.

But the focus quickly turned to finances. An early estimate for tearing down the building came in at $2 million, more than $40,000 per unit.

Residents are still paying mortgages for the homes they are not living in, they paid $12,000 apiece last fall to repair the balconies that eventually exposed the structural damage, and they're paying for new living expenses in their new homes.

Halvensleben said, "That's a huge financial burden and then to know that we might be stuck with an additional $40,000."

The original raze order states if the association does not pay for the building to come down, the city will do it and the cost will be recouped through a tax lien that Halvensleben worries will haunt residents forever. She says the situation is unfathomable. "The only way to help at this point would be for somebody to magically buy the building from us and pay off our mortgages."

Condo residents have not met with Waukesha city officials in nearly two months. The next step is for the law firm to review hundreds of pages of documents that detail the building's structural and inspection history, before deciding the next course of action.

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