Clock ticking for 'eyesores'

February 22, 2013 10:25:09 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Starkville aldermen cleared the way Tuesday for demolition projects associated with dilapidated structures and issued three extensions to property owners looking to rehabilitate their properties. 


Eight structures - buildings located at 611 Vine St., 810 South Jackson St., 205 Ware St., 729 Whitfield St., 410 South Jackson St., 305 Louisville St., an unspecified address on Long Street and the former Jr. Food Mart located at the southeastern corner of North Jackson and Critz streets -- were originally listed in the city's e-packet as being identified as dilapidated structures by Starkville code enforcement officers last year. 


The board granted one-year improvement extensions to the owners of 410 South Jackson St., and 305 Louisville St. structures and also issued a 30-day extension to the owners of the former Jr. Food Mart. 


The board also asked for quarterly reports to track rehabilitation projects from those properties issued an extension. 


Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn said Tuesday work was recently completed to the Long Street property, and improvements are scheduled to begin on the Ware Street structure next week. A board report states the Long Street property owner's attorney picked up an erosion control and demolition permit application from the building department on Feb. 4. Similar permits were purchased by the Ware Street property owner on Feb. 12. 


In each instance of code violations, the city authorized Board Attorney Chris Latimer to conduct title searches, attempted to contact the owners of dilapidated structures and published legal notices of intent. 


Statutes require adequate notice to be given to property owners about code violations in order to allow structural remediation. If the city does demolish a dilapidated structure, the cost is assessed to the property owner through a tax lien. 


Not only are dilapidated structures an eyesore, but they also can become a threat to public health safety by serving as a habitat for vermin and posing a danger by being structurally unsafe for those who enter the building. 


"Occasionally, property owners show no interest in getting a structure up to code. The scenario you most often have is when property is held by an absentee owner who doesn't closely monitor the structure or loses interest altogether," Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said. "When a structure falls into that sort of disrepair, the city's ultimate remedy is to demolish the structure. 


"We make every effort to work with property owners because we want to see these structures restored to a point where it doesn't violate city code," he added. "At a certain point, this issue becomes a need in terms of community interest." 


Representatives of two listed properties personally asked aldermen for extensions, while the owner of the former Jr. Food Mart contacted Starkville Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill before Tuesday's meeting.  


A letter from owners of the 410 South Jackson St., property stated their intentions to rehabilitate the structure's porch, foundation and drainage system. Permits will be purchased from the city for code compliance, the letter states. 


Patrick Nordin, a spokesperson for the property owners, asked the board during its citizen comment period for a one-year extension to address code violations. His request was granted contingent on completing quarterly updates. 


Sammie Harris, listed in the board's packet as owner of the 305 Louisville St. property, told the board Tuesday his property suffered from neglect while he made sure his five children graduated debt-free from college. Harris' one-year extension request was also granted by the board contingent on his filing quarterly reports to code enforcement officers. 


Owners of code-violating structures still have time to address the situation before the city actively begins demolition efforts, Spruill said. Those efforts are done in-house, she said, and the city must find the right time and personnel for the projects. 


The board could address a new group of code-violating structures during its March meetings, Spruill said.

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch