Council Discusses Cleaning Up “Eyesore” BuildingsOctober 19th, 2009 by Rebecca Friend
Beverly Hudson lead a debate last Thursday during the regular city council meeting on condemning buildings for city clean ups. She opened the topic by showing pictures taken by Truman Hamilton depicting the old, abandoned buildings. Hudson wanted the council to enforce the ordinance already in place that states that if the council deems a building to be a nuisance they can condemn it and ask the owner to tear it down and clean it up, or if the owner refuses, the city can take down the building.
The council discussed with MEDC Director Truman Hamilton and MEDC Chairman Benji Ryburn what efforts had been made in the past. According to Ryburn, letters had been posted on the buildings, and the only thing left to do was for the council to enforce the ordinance and allow the city to tear down the buildings if the owners did not.
The council, Ryburn, and Hamilton discussed the fact that if they wanted to follow the ordinance, then once they posted the signs saying the building was condemned, the city could take down the building and file a lean against the property if the owner refused to clean the property up. The owner would then have to pay the taxes on the property or the land commissioner will auction the property for back taxes, and the city will collect its money first from the tax money.
“You got to the point where the city council had to say ‘it’s condemned,’ and that didn’t happen, so nothing happened from that point,” stated Hamilton. “There was nothing else our office could do.”
Hamilton also stated that the city fire department could not burn any of the buildings as a training exercise unless the buildings had been inspected to ensure that there were no hazardous materials such as asbestos in the buildings. The council discussed prices of inspecting all the houses and options for that.
Council members stated that they would like to see on paper what each condemnation will cost the city. Hamilton and City Attorney Bill Daniels answered by saying that prices for each place would vary. For example, if the city has to tear the building down, they will have to pay for an inspector to inspect the building. If he finds something, they will have to pay more for him to run tests on what he found.
“You could end up with a lot of expense here without know it,” says Daniels. “If you’re serious about clean up…if you’re serious about proceeding through with this thing, it’s going to cost money…and you’re not going to recover all of your money…but you have accomplished the purpose of cleaning up the city, so how serious are you in doing that, and do we have your support if we start going down that process?”
Sherrie Gillespie stated that one the problems in the past was that they would give a 90-day notice, the owner would clean up a little of the property, and the council would back off. After a few months, the building was back in bad shape, and the process would begin again. She also stated that even though some of the buildings are in town the owners do not live there, and they do not care about the old buildings.
“I am specifically addressing those that really would be deemed a nuisance to the point that they need to be torn down,” answered Hudson.
The council approved a motion to move forward with looking at properties that need to be condemned.
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