Abandoned house more than just an eyesore

  • Friday, March 8, 2013

Scott Harper/Times
Gwendolyn White, who lives in the 2000 block of Church Street in Georgetown, shows an abandoned house where cats, rats and snakes come from.

Gwendolyn White and Arthur Smith, residents of the 2000 block of Church Street, are proud of the way they maintain their houses and properties.
However, sandwiched between the two is a house that has been abandoned for at least five years that, they say, is not only an eyesore but is also dangerous.
White and Smith, who live across from the offices of the Georgetown County School District, say they have tried to get help from City Hall but so far nothing has been done.
Both Smith and White say the deteriorating condition of the house, coupled with the lack of maintenance the yard receives from the owners, makes the structure an attraction for rats and cats throughout the year and snakes during the warmer weather.
“Sometimes there are snakes all over the yard,” Smith said. “We have been trying for three or four years to get something done.”
White said she has often cut the grass in the yard herself in an effort to help control the rat and snake problems.
She said cats use the areas underneath the house to deliver new litters of kittens.
“If they are not going to fix it up, it needs to be torn down,” White said. “The snakes and rats and cats are bad enough but it has brought our property values down.”
Rick Martin, head of the city’s Building and Planning Department, said he has made contact with the owners who said they want to make repairs to the house and property. That, however, was about six months ago.
Janet Grant, the city’s code enforcement officer, said she sent the owners a letter in January reminding them something needs to be done. In February they were sent a citation and must appear in municipal court.
Grant said the Church Street home is one of many in the city in deplorable conditions but, in many cases, the owners voluntarily make repairs or demolish the structures. She said she has had eight homeowners take care of their eyesores just since the start of the year.
Martin said he has $75,000 in a budget that can be used to tear down such structures when the owners will not or cannot do it themselves.
For the city to do it, the process can be long and tedious. First, Martin must appear before the city’s Construction Board of Appeals to get permission for the demolition. Then, if the owners appeal, it could get tied up in Circuit Court.
Martin said there are more than a dozen other houses are being looked at for possible demolition.

By Scott Harper
sharper@gtowntimes.com

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