July 6, 2011 10:59:00 AM
Garthia Elena Burnett -
It was obvious Tuesday morning just how tired the Lowndes County supervisors are of dealing with a man his neighbors previously dubbed "the bird man."
Though Keith Kimmerle, who lives out of state, was not at a hearing to discuss his overgrown and unmaintained Oakdale Park property, supervisors went on with the meeting. And they reached a consensus: It''s time to look into tearing the house down.
"I''ve been out there ... and obviously this gentleman has no intention of doing the right thing. I think we need to go in there and knock it down," said District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks.
Brooks also echoed statements already noted by Harry Sanders, District 1 supervisor and board president.
Both agreed the property was a nuisance, likely a health hazard and took away from the attractiveness of the neighborhood.
"I think we need to authorize the (Road Department to demolish it) or the fire department to go in there ... and burn it down. I don''t think we need to go through this every year."
Sanders noted the residents in Oakdale Park, which is off Highway 45 North, just north of city limits, have a covenant to maintain their properties. He suggested turning the matter over to them, as far as tearing down the property.
"The only thing we''re really allowed to do, unless it is an extreme case, is to clean up the lot," Sanders said.
Brooks pressed the issue: "The city (of Columbus) goes throughout the city and tears down houses like nothing, because they use their codes, and they use the laws," Brooks said. "(Kimmerle) has no intention of doing the right thing. He doesn''t care. He doesn''t live here."
Few people have the money to fight such a legal battle, he added, saying Kimmerle''s property is a burden to people who work hard to maintain their homes.
"That is a nice neighborhood," he said. "None of you would want that in your neighborhood. You''d be doing just like these people. You''d be raising hell."
"I''m on your side with this, I really am" Sanders said to Brooks. But Sanders also wanted to ensure the county could legally tear down the property, which might contain items of value to the owner.
Frank Ferguson, supervisor for District 2, which encompasses Oakdale Park, said he is told the house is "not fit to live in."
"I''ve peeped through the window," he added. "I wouldn''t put a dog in there."
Kimmerle, in a past public hearing, said he was an avid bird watcher and let the yard grow into its jungle-like state as a way to attract birds to his two four-story birdhouses mounted on 20-foot poles in the front yard.
Also in the yard is an abandoned Ford Taurus, packed full with old boxes and other items. The front of the house is overflowing with old boxes and other debris.
Over the years, the county has written letters and emails requesting the property be cleaned. Sometimes Kimmerle has cleaned the property himself or paid others to do it. Other times, the county mowed and cleaned the land, then sent Kimmerle the bill.
Kimmerle, a couple years ago, parked a Ford Mustang in the garage, neighbors told Ferguson. To their knowledge, it is still parked there. Neighbors describe Kimmerle as a hoarder, with thousands of books and newspapers piled in the house.
After much discussion, the supervisors agreed to have the county clean the lot, if Kimmerle refused to do so within 30 days. Thereafter, the county building department director will inspect the property to determine whether or not the house was dilapidated enough for demolition.
Supervisors also moved to clean up another unkept property, in Thornton Estates, off Highway 69. The property is owned by Bank of America and has been sitting idle for two years, reported District 2 Supervisor John Holliman.
"There''s a pool. The water''s black ... and it''s got a mosquito problem, and the neighbors are complaining about it," Holliman said, requesting an Aug. 1 hearing on the property "because it is a health hazard."
Thereafter, Bank of America will have 30 days to clean the property or the county will clean it and send the bank the bill.