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2014/02/20 / tocovava

News from the Stockton Urinal

     Cranes may be circled around the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory, but demolition plans have been frozen for now. Both hands of God came down, divinely heaving aside the wrecking ball as if in a game of totem tennis, wrapping it around the crane. One hand came down with COLD across the knuckles. It dropped mountains of snow and ice. No crane operator could work in such baleful conditions. The other hand came down with LAWYER UP on the knuckles and the valleys-between-the-knuckles. It dropped a lawsuit on the desk of city attorney Patsy Grobble. Turns out the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory is occupied by a couple, stinking of mold and scabs, and they say somewhere in one of the stacks of old TV Guides and baskets of bent tacks, old clothes and hymnals, they have a valid renter’s agreement from the owner of the property.  They are taking the city to court. City attorney Grobble says there is no documentation listing the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory as rental properties. It’ll be quite a court case when no one has any papers to support anything. The owner of the property Ted Ruston bought the buildings and land from the city twelve years ago. He burbled about plans for retail spaces anchored by a punk-rock aerobic workout center, which were so hot back in the early days of the Iraq War. Like most workout plans, his sunk out of sight forgotten. Before long the structure took on a sorry state. Sometimes after a good rain the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory will catch a glimpse of itself on the surface of Joseph Street.  Then it will shake tears from the belfry and more down the steeple, crying over how out-of-shape it has gotten, like you, seeing your reflection on your computer screen, late, after wasting another night searching for references from around the time of the Iraq War. Attempts to reach Ruston to discover why he let it fall into disrepair were as successful as his plans for a punk-rock aerobic workout center. He keeps no local address. As for the couple living there they said their communication with him is done over the phone. When asked how they pay their rent, they said over the phone. It is likely no renter’s agreement is in place and that they have been squatting in the rectory for God knows how long.  Though petitioned, God was unavailable for comment. But the couple said they have been living there for over nine years. Action on an eviction notice takes seven months to complete and the rights of squatters to claim a property kick in at ten years. Meaning, of course, they’d take claim of the property before they can be run from it. Attorney Grobble is convinced the squatters lawsuit will be thrown out of court, like Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, Ben Wallace, Anthony Johnson, Reggie Miller, Chauncey Billups, Derrick Coleman, Elden Campbell and poor David Harrison after the Malice at the Palace back in the early days of the Iraq War. However, to further scuttle demolition plans, the owner Ruston has a pattern of paying his property taxes every 30 months. Tax evaders in Stockton take note: Property taxes that go unpaid for 36 months put a property into foreclosure, which in this case would hand the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory back to the city. Ruston is in month 29 of his most recent cycle.  In what must be a first on city records, Stockton is hoping a homeowner doesn’t pay property taxes. The city plans to demolish the Old Lutheran Church and Rectory, rendering it into junk, piling it somewhere to rot out of sight, then pave down the spot for another parking lot.

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