June 20, 2024

Newton chiropractor worries about business following demo of nearby property

‘It has been a thorn in this community long enough,’ says building owner

The building owned by Chedester Properties, LLC is set to be demolished, but the owners of an adjoining property are worried their building could be damaged in the process.

Kelly Koenen of Newton was holding back tears when she told council members how worried she was about the building she owns being next door to a property that was damaged by the derecho almost four years ago and is supposedly scheduled for demolition. All she wants is for her building to be protected.

Koenen Chiropractic operates at 200 N. Second Ave. W. in downtown Newton. Dr. Jay Koenen, Kelly’s husband, has been offering chiropractic care there for the past 25 years. The office is located directly south of the damaged building owned by Chedester Properties, LLC, which has been in litigation with the city for years.

During the citizen participation portion of the city council meeting, Kelly wanted to address what she felt were unsubstantiated rumors that claimed she and Jay were in litigation between the city or Chedester Properties. Kelly made it very clear to council members and the public that this rumor “simply is not true.”

However, the Koenens have asked for updates from the City of Newton and DeCarlo Demolition Company of Des Moines in order to stay informed through the demolition process. Until recently, Kelly said communication with the city has been great. But in February, things took a turn after Koenens’ lawyer sent a letter.

The letter stated DeCarlo Demolition was required by law to protect adjoining properties from damage during demolition work and that the professional engineer recommends temporary shoring to be built to protect the adjoining Koenen Chiropractic office from any damage.

“Since then it’s our understanding DeCarlo is having lawyers look at this letter, and that’s all we know,” Kelly said. “Not one word from them and the city since except, ‘You will need to you have your attorney speak with our attorney.’ All we want is to make sure our property is protected from the harm of demolition.”

If harm is done, Kelly said it will be clear to everyone involved who is liable before it begins. She said any property owner would want to protect their assets and have a clear understanding about what will happen in the demolition of an adjoining building. Kelly said she has been transparent in her communications.

“We would appreciate the city giving us the same courtesy,” she said. “None of us have asked for this. Not you guys and certainly not us. So we just want to work together to get this resolved. It has been a thorn in this community long enough. We thank you for your time.”

In October 2023, city attorney Matthew Brick informed council members that the city reached a settlement with the owner of Chedester Properties regarding the building at 209 W. Second St. N. At that time, he said the owner agreed to hire a licensed company to demolish the building and restore the lot it resides on.

Jay shared his concerns about the demolition during that same timeframe. He worried his clinic and the Knights of Columbus space could get damaged by being so close to the damaged building. Jay also had concerns about the limestone and sandstone foundation compromising his building.

Brick said Chedester Properties would have to obtain a proper permit and follow all city codes to demolish the building. The owner is not allowed “to just pull down and walk away from the wall and leave it exposed” or “leave the adjoining walls susceptible to falling over.”

Litigation over the damaged property took an exceptionally long time. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic slowing things down, the death of one of the defendants also delayed the process even further. Brick suggested it was worth the wait in the end because it saved citizens from paying for the demo.

“The legal fees and the staff time, significantly less than the six figures that it would have cost to rip this building down,” Brick said.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.