Township set to demolish gutted State Road house

June 14, 1994

The Princeton Packet

Township set to demolish gutted State Road house

By Hank Kalet

Staff Writer

By summer’s end, 468 State Road may be a vacant lot. More than three years after the house was gutted in a fire allegedly set by its owner, Nicholas G. Hayer, Princeton Township officials appear ready to clear away the remains.

The news should come as a relief to homeowners along the road who have complained for three years that the charred shell poses a health and safety risk. Residents have said they were afraid that children could venture into the wreck and be injured by falling debris.

An arson investigation conducted by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, and a separate civil lawsuit filed against Nicholas G. Hayer by State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. delayed demolition, said Township Attorney Ed Schmierer on Monday. He said the investigation has been completed.

The committee could award a demolition contract June 27. If that occurs, Barbara Morgan, an attorney with Mason, Griffin and Pierson, the firm representing the township, said Monday that the house could be razed by the end of August.

Township Construction Official Betty Jablonsky said Monday that a firm has been chosen to perform the demolition. She said she could divulge neither its name nor the amount of the contract until the committee acted on her recommendation.

Ms. Morgan said that she sent Mr. Hayer’s attorney a letter April 29 requesting that he raze the house. “We have received no response from either his attorney or from Mr. Hayer,” she said.

If Mr. Hayer does not respond, the township will demolish the structure itself and bill Mr. Hayer for its cost, she said.

If the bill is not paid in a “reasonable amount of time,” she said, the township would place a lien against Mr. Hayer’s property. That would enable the township to recoup the money, either through a tax sale or at the time that the property is sold.

Ms. Morgan said that it was too early to define “a reasonable amount of time.”

The three-story wood house was destroyed April 29, 1991, in a fire allegedly set by Mr. Hayer. The fire was reported at 12:46 p.m. by neighbors who said flames were billowing from the roof.

At the time of the blaze, township fire officials said they found several spots in the basement where it appeared that a flammable liquid was poured and set afire.

Mr. Hayer was indicted on charges of aggravates arson and theft by deception in March 1993 by a county grand jury in Trenton. He faces up to 10 years in prison on each count.

The trial is scheduled to begin July 11.

Ms. Jablonsky said that once the committee acts, she will move as quickly as possible to remove what is left of the house.

“I want to get it down as quickly as possible,” she said. “It has been a long time. We try to get the fire jobs down as quickly as possible, but this was an unusual situation due to the arson.”

She said fire officials had to be called in to post violations identifying the building as an unsafe structure because “the firemen are the only ones who know where the falling debris was.”

As you stood there, pieces were falling from the roof and from the building,” she said.

She said the contract calls for the removal of the foundation and fire-scarred trees on the property, in addition to what remains of the shell.

She said that the water, electric, gas and other utilities have already been disconnected and that there were no vermin or other pests on the property.

Ms. Jablonsky said it was unfortunate that the situation ended the way it did.

“I personally inspected every inch of that house when it went up,” she said. “It was a beautiful house inside. I was heartsick when it happened.”

She said that it took Mr. Hayer almost two years to construct the dwelling.

“He built it himself and did all the interior work himself,” she said. “It was a beautiful house. I had no reason to doubt that the house wouldn’t be there for a very long time.”

Mr. Hayer, who currently lives in Vermont, could not be reached for comment.

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