RAYTOWN, Mo. -- Already out more than $20,000 for a piece of property that a Raytown woman says is virtually useless, she called FOX4 Problem Solvers wanting to warn others not to make the same mistake.
Amy Thiede took us on a quick tour of the small lot she bought five years ago, hoping to build a one-room house that (once retired) she could use as an office for her therapy practice.
"Who knew it would be this complicated?" asked Thiede, shaking her head.
Thiede certainly had no idea when she handed over $10,000 for the empty lot.
She thought she'd done her homework before buying the property because she had checked with Raytown City Hall, which is across the street. She said she was told that building a small office space wouldn't be a problem.
Fast forward five years and Thiede said it has been nothing but problems.
The lot, which has sat empty for 20 years, is zoned as part of the city's Central Business District. Building in that district comes with a mountain of regulations.
But Thiede at first thought she could make it work.
"We had to do a water study," she said. "Then we had to have an agriculturist come out and look at the trees and identify every tree on the lot."
There were also requirements for lighting and sidewalks and parking. Plus a drainage basin needed to be built.
Thiede said she has always appreciated that cities need zoning to keep them looking nice. But she said her property is on 59th Street -- blocks away from where most of Raytown's businesses are located. Plus, even though the lot is zoned commercial, it's surrounded by houses.
Raytown had so many regulations for building on the lot that, by the time Thiede had complied with half of them, she realized she didn't have enough money left to put up a building.
So she tried selling the property.
The first interested buyer wanted to build a garage on the property to house his trailer. The city said no.
"Somebody else wanted top put a tire shop there," Thiede said. "Well, (the city said) you can sell tires all day long. You just can't mount them. What's the point of that?"
Then, she said, a house builder was interested.
He wanted to build a $200,000 home there. But after he met with the city multiple times, he told FOX4 Problem Solvers he gave up, saying the requirements were too burdensome.
At that point, Theide said, she tried to donate the property to charity. But no charity she contacted was interested.
"I'm not here to make a buck. I just want to get rid of it," said Thiede, who still has it listed with a real estate company but is no longer getting calls.
That's why Thiede called FOX4 Problem Solvers.
We talked to City Administrator Damon Hodges, who said his staff tried on multiple occasions to work with Thiede and the builder -- and even offered to waive some of regulations.
But it wasn't enough. Hodges said zoning districts are important in a city, and he recommended anyone buying property ask the city for a list of the requirements before closing the sale.
So how do you solve Thiede's problem?
Problem Solvers talked to two real estate attorneys who said there is a way out for people stuck with a piece of property they can't sell: Stop paying property taxes.
In Jackson County, property will be sold on the courthouse steps if it has more than three years of unpaid taxes. Those back taxes will be attached to the property -- not to the former owner.
So you can just walk away. But be careful, you can still be personally fined for any code violations, like overgrown grass or a dilapidated building.