RICHMOND, Ind. — A number of folks in Richmond have reached out to CBS4/FOX59 to tell us the city government owns parcels of land where the huge warehouse fire still smolders.
We now have a clearer picture of how the Richmond City government got its hands on the property.
A quitclaim deed provided to CBS4/FOX59 by the city attorney shows that on March 22, 2021, five addresses were sold to the city for one dollar. The addresses include 310 NW F Street.
That location has been listed as the business address for Cornerstone Trading Group, owned and operated by Seth Smith. He is also the owner of My-Way Trading, Inc. which has an address of 308 NW F Street.
For years, the business has collected scrap industrial plastic, re-selling it to markets overseas.
When pallets of scrap plastic overwhelmed the property, city officials sought to rein in the operation. The city’s Unsafe Buildings Commission ordered safety and fire code violations to be addressed in September 2019.
Two months later, Smith sued the city in a failed attempt to have the courts throw out the clean-up order.
How did the city manage to purchase property where the business sat? Unpaid property taxes, the city law department said.
In a letter received today, Assistant City Attorney Kimberly Vessels said, “The city saw (buying the parcels) as an opportunity to gain control of the sites in order to conduct remediation work while still holding the owner responsible.”
What actions the city took in the two years since then remains unclear.
Richmond Mayor David Snow has said the fire and the clean-up effort on the property are the responsibility of Smith.
On the day when many residents evacuated because of the fire are returning to their homes for the first time, Snow declined to get into specifics about the years-long efforts to police the site.
“Once I know that these individuals are back home and everybody’s okay, and we’re moving forward then we can talk about all the other pieces at that time,” Snow said.