Keith Kimmerle’s home on North Chestnut Drive in Oakdale Park has been causing headaches for the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors for years. The board has given Kimmerle 15 days from its Friday meeting to clean up his land or the county would be forced to do it for the second year in a row at Kimmerle’s expense. Photo by: Kelly Tippett
October 20, 2010 10:34:00 AM
A domestic jungle in Oakdale Park is making the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors lose its collective patience.
Keith Kimmerle''s abandoned house on North Chestnut Drive has been an annual thorn in the county''s side for the last few years. The front yard is a thick tangle of various weeds, some as tall as seven feet. A rusted out Ford Bronco stuffed with cardboard boxes sits at the end of the driveway with its hood popped, blocking the entrance. An abandoned Ford Taurus, equally stuffed, sits outside the garage, 50 feet back from the Bronco.
Enough cardboard boxes litter the front porch to block the front door. More piles of boxes can be seen through the front windows.
The house itself is falling apart. A dip in the roof suggests it''s on the verge of caving in. The front gutters are cracked and hanging off the roof.
And, as if to add a final touch of weirdness, two four-story birdhouses mounted on 20-foot poles poke out of the weeds in the middle of the front yard.
It''s the kind of house that trick-or-treaters love to walk past on Halloween night. For the other 364 nights in a year, it''s just an eyesore.
Kimmerle made a rare appearance in Columbus Friday during the supervisors'' meeting. He had been summoned to the Oct. 4 meeting via e-mail, but replied he would be out of town.
The hearing was moved to Friday''s meeting and the 9:30 a.m. hearing came and went with no Kimmerle. Half an hour later, he showed up.
It was a rare sighting of the reclusive traveler. The former Air Force pilot instructor had been gone for years.
"He more or less abandoned the property. He hasn''t lived there in years," said Lynn Honeycutt, a 20-year neighbor of Kimmerle''s.
His neighbors had heard rumors of his whereabouts. Some said he was in Missouri. Some heard he was a chasing storms in the Midwest. Others assumed he was dead.
Alive and in person Friday, the supervisors weren''t interested in explanations. They were forced to clear his land last year when he couldn''t be reached and had just voted to do the same this year when he popped up. The board gave him 15 days from Friday to clean his property.
"His time was up and we didn''t want to hear it," said Ferguson. "This thing should have been done back in May. If it''s not done next year we''re going to start (the process) in March or April."
District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks proposed the county look into condemning and bulldozing Kimmerle''s house.
The last time the county cleaned Kimmerle''s land, the low bid for the work came in at $685. Add existing property taxes and fees and Kimmerle owed the county $900. But the escrow account Kimmerle had set up to pay his taxes couldn''t cover the increase and his land was sold at a tax sale in August.
Now he has to repay the company which paid his balance within two years at an accelerating interest scale of 1 1/2 percent each month in order to keep his property.
Plus, according to County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews, Kimmerle''s taxes will go up after his property value was raised this year.
The value of Kimmerle''s land and that of several of his neighbors was lowered by 10 percent in recent years due to condition of his land. Yet Honeycutt, who recently sold his home, said Kimmerle''s land didn''t effect his sale price.
Velma King, Kimmerle''s neighbor directly to the East, wasn''t as lucky.
"I had (my house) up for sale for over a year and didn''t have any luck. The reason was (buyers) complained about that house over there. So I just took it off the market. I feel like I''m stuck with it," she said.
King and Carol Donald, the next neighbor to the East, both have problems with snakes that they attribute to Kimmerle''s property.
None of Kimmerle''s neighbors had seen him for years prior to Friday. Neighbor Carl Deddo was the only one to receive a visit.
Deddo landscaped Kimmerle''s lawn several times years ago, but says he stopped after twice being forced to appeal to Kimmerle''s Air Force superiors to receive payment.
He says Kimmerle asked him to care for the land again, but stipulated only a very small and specific portion of the lawn be trimmed.
"I talked to the supervisors and they said ''Forget that. We want it (cut) all the way around,''" said Deddo.
Deddo ultimately declined Kimmerle''s request to clean the property.
For the time being, supervisors are demanding only that the grass be cut. If the county does eventually act on Brooks'' suggestion to knock the house down, they''ll first need a moving truck.
Kimmerle''s neighbors describe him as a hoarder. Over the years they say hundreds of packages have been delivered to his home despite his absence. Many are piled up on Kimmerle''s front porch. Many more were left in the abandoned cars in the driveway.
Neighbors say the interior of his house is no better, with boxes and trash piled to the extent that walking through the house would be difficult.
Other descriptions of Kimmerle range from "weird" to intentional agitator to "polite but insane."
Kimmerle''s property is clearly a unique case, but County Administrator Ralph Billingsley says his office handles 15 to 20 complaints each year about delinquent properties.
"Sometimes lots are vastly overgrown. They may a have big rig tractor trailer parked in the front yard or old debris. We''ve seen couches, 55-gallon drums. Things that aren''t appropriate in neighborhood settings," he said.
Besides the eyesore factor, he says such properties often attract rodent or mosquito problems.
Property complaints are far more common in the city. Code Enforcement Officer Derrick Nash says the city processes 400-500 cases each year. Most are overgrown lots, but some involve abandoned houses.
The process for cleaning properties in the city and the county are similar. Officials visit the property to see the alleged violation and, if one exists, contact the property owner.
The owner is given a period of time to bring the property into compliance, and may receive time extensions as long as progress is being made.
In the case the property owner can''t be reached or refuses to comply, the county or the city will bring the land into compliance and bill the owner for the service on their taxes. If those taxes aren''t paid, as was the case with Kimmerle, the property will be sold at a tax sale.
irvingtonguy commented at 10/20/2010 1:58:00 PM:
Had a problem with a foreclosed house next to me being overgrown, me and the neighbor on the otherside took turns mowing the grass when we each mowed our own. Didn't take that long to do it and kept the house from looking abandoned.
Why don't his neighbors do the same thing and take it upon themselves to clean up the place. Seems he has more money than he has sense by letting the house just sit there and fall apart.
muw-girl commented at 10/20/2010 2:27:00 PM:
Because of the liability involved with being on someone else's property without his/her permission. It's the homeowner's responsibility to upkeep grouds. That's a nice gesture, but too often good intentions can have negative consequences. If you didn't have the permission of the homeowner, you were essentially tresspassing. Hoarding is a psychological problem beyond aesthetics. I feel sorry for this guy but I would hate to be his neighbor, especially in this market.
AlixB commented at 10/20/2010 2:47:00 PM:
His attitude is like a lot of folks. If I don't take care of it someone else will. I say condemn the property and let the county fire departments use it as a training exercise.
1. Woman dies after parking lot shooting in Columbus COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Father of parking lot shooting victim speaks out COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Teen arrested and charged with capital murder, arson COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Columbus, Starkville ranked among state's most exciting cities COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Mayor, city employee raises rescinded COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY