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WATERLOO — The city has won its legal battle to seize the former St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School from a California investor.

Black Hawk County District Court Judge David Odekirk awarded title to the dilapidated church, school and rectory on the corner of East Fourth and Parker streets during a hearing Thursday.

Odekirk found the city had proven the property owned by Henry Anderson, of Downey, Calif., was seriously deteriorated to the point of being a public nuisance.

City Attorney David Zellhoefer said the city intends to demolish the buildings, which are beyond repair. He also intends to file another court action seeking ownership of the adjacent St. Mary’s Villa, a former nuns’ home also owned by Anderson.

Anderson purchased the property from the Roman Catholic Church in 2006 for $475,000 with stated plans to save the historic property. It had been the home church and school for Waterloo’s famous five Sullivan Brothers, who died while serving together in World War II.

But Barry Stratton, the city’s property safety inspector, testified no permits were ever taken out for improvements, more than $100,000 in property taxes went unpaid, and neglect and a lack of maintenance brought the property to ruins.

Stratton said he did not believe the buildings could be salvaged.

“There’s so much water in the building, there’s standing water, the floors have all buckled,” Stratton said. “All the buildings have black mold showing.”

Pigeons, raccoons and vandals have also left the building “absolutely not” fit for human occupancy, he added. Exposed asbestos and structural damage also make the building dangerous for those who enter.

As-Samad El, representing Anderson, participated in the hearing by telephone, noting the 84-year-old himself was unable to travel to the hearing due to his health.

El reiterated Anderson’s previous claims the city declined to help his efforts to redevelop the site and would not seek state and federal grants to fix up the property.

“When a request for assistance to uplift it was made to the city, it was refused,” El said. “Now the city is asking for the property free and clear without any compensation to Dr. Anderson.”

Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson and Community Development Director Rudy Jones both testified Henry Anderson or one of his representatives only recently approached the city with questions about potential redevelopment.

Both Noel Anderson and Jones said the city was never presented with any plans for the buildings and no formal grant or funding requests were made.

Zellhoefer said there’s an urgency to demolish the rectory on the site, which currently stands in the way of a Virden Creek flood control project. Additional funding will need to be identified to remove the church and school buildings.

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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