A housing-court judge had been scheduled today to decide whether to appoint a receiver with the power to raze a Mt. Ida Road three decker ravaged in a 2011 fire, but owner James Dickey may have once again managed to stave off any action for a few months by trying to transfer the case to federal court.
The maneuver has failed in the past - last year, a federal judge sent the case back to state court - but it buys Dickey more time to not do anything about his property at 97 Mt. Ida Rd., which has been an eyesore for years, one the city says poses "a serious risk to the health, safety and wellbeing of any occupants, abutters and residents of the community" - not least because of the rats that are now the building's main inhabitants.
In his federal case last year, which bought him some three months, Dickey, a Sudbury resident acting as his own lawyer, charged that the city was depriving him of his rights to due process by seeking to board up the building without his permission. A federal judge ultimately agreed with ISD that the case involves no federal due-process issues, just alleged violations of the state sanitary code.
Dickey is trying a new civil-rights argument this time: He alleges his rights are being violated by a conspiracy involving the city and housing-court officials to "seize and sell property owned by African-Americans to friends of the court, for pennies on the dollar." Dickey is white, however.
Nearby residents have been complaining about the property for years. Even before an August, 2011 fire there, the city and Dickey battled over conditions inside the building - Dickey also lost a lawsuit against a tenant who had filed a formal complaint.
ISD waited until 2013 to formally demand Dickey either raze or repair the building, which led to several years of fighting in court, during which Dickey did nothing about the fire damage. In 2015, he claimed to be waiting for an insurance check.
City assessing records show the structure's value has shrunk from $424,000 in 2007 to about $223,000 today - and most of that is for the land. Dickey currently pays about $2,336 a year in taxes on the empty building on the 3,511-square-foot lot.