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July 25, the house on the end of Tuttle Road damaged in a 2010 fire had been mostly hauled away to Manchester. The removal of the home immediately changed the look of the neighborhood. | Mark Dionne / Town Times

Demolition of fire-ravaged house cheered

The destruction of the house at 322 Tuttle Road in Durham that began with a fire on Jan. 15, 2010 was completed more than four years later. On July 25, workers leveled and removed what was left of the fire-ravaged structure for the new owner.

The fire was severe enough to ruin the large home – which had 3,984 square feet of living space – and summon fire departments from several nearby towns. According to residents, and the original Town Times report, the house was vacant at the time of the fire.

The new owner, Nicholas Laudano, purchased the property on Dec. 16, 2013 from Capital One for a price of $119,995, according to public records.

Capital One foreclosed on the property on Sept. 25, 2013, taking possession from Alicia Alfano, who owned the home at the time of the fire.

Of the structure that had been eye-catching for all the wrong reasons on the corner of Tuttle and Parmelee Hill roads, only the foundation remains.

Neighbors reacted positively to seeing the construction crews level and remove the house. One neighborhood resident said drivers honked their horns as they drove past the demolition. “Bulldozers were like the sound of music to my ears,” one neighbor said.

After the fire, the open areas of the house were secured with tarp and wood and a notice warned “DANGER This Structure Is Declared Unsafe For Human Occupancy or Use.”

And there it sat for four and a half years. Tarp and wood were battered and torn away. Openings to the home grew larger and the elements poured in, especially from some of the massive weather events in recent years. All four sides of the house, and the roof, had large openings.

The yard had also turned more wild and overgrown. Several times the grass was mowed by people unknown.

In an August, 2011 interview with Town Times, Durham First Selectman Laura Francis said the town would not do any grass-cutting or tree-pruning on the property except for public safety, such as clearing the sight lines near the intersection.

The inaction of the town regarding the entire property upset some residents and brought complaints to Town Hall and public meetings. Durham does not have a blight ordinance and, since the property taxes continued to be paid for years after the fire, Francis said in 2011, “The town does not have the right to go onto that private property.”

Building Official Richard McManus sent a letter to Alfano on May 14, 2010, four months after the fire, instructing her to take down the house, saying “Section 115.1 of the Connecticut State Building code allows for the Building Official to order necessary actions of the owner which will render the property safe.”

After instructing the owner to take down the house, town officials, who consulted with the town attorney on the matter, did not push the issue. As the house remained in its fire-ravaged state, both Francis and McManus said that public safety was the only issue that would cause the town to take action against a still-owned property.

Records indicate the town did monitor the situation. On April 12, 2013, McManus sent a letter to Joe Alfano, who was often regarded as the owner of the property even after transferring the property to his daughter Alicia, reporting the results of a recent inspection. At the Tuttle Road property, the “structure is unsafe,” the letter read, because “plywood that was placed to safeguard the structure has been removed.” McManus also recorded that the problem was subsequently fixed.

In an August, 2011 interview, Joe Alfano said that he had buyers ready to purchase the property and renovate the building.

Potential buyers never emerged to take control and, presumably, demolish the structure before foreclosure and Laudano’s purchase. Laudano is the owner of a neighboring property. Recently the property, including the ruined home, was put on the market with approximately 12 additional acres located behind the lot for a listing price of $455,000. That listing has since been removed.

Attempts to reach Laudano, who also has a Florida address, were unsuccessful as of press time.

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