- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Residents of Minot who have rebuilt their homes after the devastating Souris River flood in 2011 are growing impatient with owners of homes that have been left neglected or abandoned.

Boarded-up, mold-ridden and debris-infested properties still dot the city three years after the historic flood caused by heavy spring snowmelt and rains that damaged or destroyed more than 4,000 homes, businesses and other structures in North Dakota’s fourth-largest city.

Residents who have rebuilt their homes have taken to calling the neglected structures “zombie homes,” and they want the city to deal with them, according to the Minot Daily News and KXMC-TV.

“Our house is really nice now,” resident Nathan Mugaas said. “It’s basically a new house. Except it’s sitting right next to this house that hasn’t been touched in three years with a yard full of weeds.”

The issue is not just one of appearance. Mold can be unhealthy, said Jeffery Verhey, a local doctor.

“I would say that if you are renting a home, and it’s been in the flood zone, and you have any suspicion that there’s mold, or it smells musty, or that it just doesn’t seem like your air quality is a good as it should be, then you should contact your landlord,” he said.

City Engineer Lance Meyer said the city is “working diligently” on the problem but that it takes a lot of manpower. City Councilman Dave Lehner said owners of neglected properties also have rights.

“I have been frustrated, too, but there’s only so much we can do,” he said.

Lianne Zeltinger hopes to collect 400 signatures on petitions urging action to present to the City Council next month.

“All I hear is we have to protect the rights of owners, but at some point, the property rights of the owners who have come back have to take front seat to the ones who walked away,” she said.

The city assessor’s office lists 250 abandoned homes, 60 of which are in a buyout zone. The city is in its second phase of voluntary buyouts of homes as it continues work on a proposed $820 million flood protection project.

City Councilman Larry Frey said he thinks the city needs to be more aggressive in addressing abandoned homes.

“I think the city has been fair to them, giving them this much time, but things are going to have to change,” he said.

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