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An unoccupied rental property that was heavily damaged by fire late last month was repeatedly targeted for building code violations, public records show. Investigators continue to look into what may have caused the flames, and it’s not yet apparent whether the condition of the coach house was a contributing factor.

According to public records, Amalek Smith bought the property at 915 S. Ferdinand Ave. in 2002 with the understanding that he would address the dire condition of the two-story building. By 2004, Smith had received notification from Department of Health and Safety Code Enforcement Officer Robert Teets saying enough time had passed for Smith to correct the building’s deficits and that he would receive a citation if renovations were not completed.

Between Nov. 22, 2006, and March, 7, 2007 the property was inspected several more times, according to the records, and attempts were made to contact Smith. The property owner avoided the department’s officials, and did not attend scheduled court dates, municipal records show. On March 2, 2007, Smith’s wife was served with a copy of the citations.

On March 7, 2007, a judge granted Smith 60 days to correct the conditions of the buildings and fined him $750. The citations were for a garage door that did not close properly and for an exterior portion deemed to be rotting and thus, not sanitary or structurally sound.

Smith declined to discuss with a reporter the fines that his property had accrued. According to Smith, the coach house was being used as a rental property at the time of the blaze.

Fire Chief Steve Glinke said the department is still investigating the cause of the fire.

Under Forest Park’s zoning code any property that “has been damaged by fire” by more than 50 percent of its value must be rebuilt under the guidelines for the zoning district. Because the coach house was a non-conforming property – in violation of the district’s zoning regulations – Smith would not be able to rebuild the property as a coach house.

Michael Boyle, director of the Department of Public Health and Safety, said a letter ordering the structure’s demolition has been sent to Smith.

If the structure is to be rebuilt, it would have to be a single-family home, according to the zoning codes. Smith said he was unaware of the rule and he has not yet decided what he will do with the damaged coach house.