Aldermen target abandoned lots for city cleanup

Published 8:54 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Several landowners have been given a 45-day grace period beforethe city will step in to demolish decrepit or abandoned buildingsor clean their lots.

At a public hearing held Tuesday night, aldermen presented 13 lotsthat need cleaning or clearing and 34 houses that need to berenovated or demolished. All of the owners of the respectiveproperties have been notified through several different means,including most recently, certified letter.

City Building Inspector Chip Gennarro said he had been to eachlocation personally to see if work had been started on theproperties. Some, he said, just need to be torn down.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We’ve got a few on the list that just looking at them, like one onNorth Jackson that a tree fell on during Katrina, and nothing’sbeen done since,” he said. “It’s been raining in there for four orfive years now.”

Several of the property owners came to the hearing to presentevidence that they had begun work, including one man who came fromCalifornia as the executor of the estate for a landowner who hadlived there when she passed away two years ago. Her estate has beenin probate for quite some time.

Landowners who appeared at the meeting were given a grace period of45 days if they could show progress on the task of cleaning theirlots.

One couple that came complained about a house they’d been using forstorage at 455 Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive was in good conditionuntil it had been repeatedly broken into and trashed. The home,which is in the name of Nora Wilson, has been looted for thecontents of the home, but has also had walls and utilities tornapart for the pipes and the wiring.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said he felt like immediate actionneeded to be taken on the lots that showed no action and whoseowners had not contacted city leaders.

“We’re not accomplishing anything if we send these letters out andthey refuse to do anything,” he said. “Whatever we come up with onthis list, we need to vote on it and we need to do it now.”

But Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said he refused to vote todemolish buildings he had not personally inspected. Cameron pointedout that the board has always voted on the list as a whole.

“If you want it in your ward, then get after it,” Maxwellsaid.

Cameron replied, “I wouldn’t have done this in the first place if Ididn’t want to get after it.”

Mayor Les Bumgarner asked if the board would be amenable toGennarro’s monitoring the progress of some of the lots, and takingsome action if nothing is done. He pointed out that some landownershave expressed interest in having the city tear down theirbuildings. If that occurs, it is charged to their property taxes,officials said.

Cameron said he felt like most of his list is made up of propertythat is a constant problem, and that he was ready to move.

“My list is just about written in stone,” he said. “I don’t thinkthere are going to be any changes on it.”

In regular meeting, the board voted 6-0, with Maxwell outside theroom, to begin demolition on three of the properties Cameronlisted: An abandoned house on Sixth Street, a burned home on thecorner of Choctaw and Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive, and a burnedmobile home on the corner of Penn Street and IndependenceStreet.

The other properties in question will be monitored and action takenat a later date.